In February 2020 I blogged about how to network effectively and here are some extra pointers. Recently I read Stefan Thomas’ excellent book called ‘Instant Networking’. I really recommend this book, especially for entrepreneurs trying to get their businesses up and running. He makes the point that face-to-face networking is so important as our clients often really want to meet us before they decide to buy or use our services. This is something that can’t quite be replicated online.
Meet-like-know-trust for effective networking
These are the stages of someone getting to know you via networking. This is a process that needs to evolve over time. Therefore, it’s really important to keep going to the same networking events so that this trust is built up. Once you have reached the trust stage, you’ll find that the people you are engaging with will be ready to buy your products or recommend you to their friends.
Pitching yourself at business networking events
It’s also important to think about how you are going to pitch yourself. At business networking events, there’s usually a part of the event where everyone introduces themselves and their business. It’s best not to look at this as a sales pitch, but as a start of a conversation, so that people in the room can get a short flavour of what you do, knowing that they can chat to you later.
Some ideas about what to say:
- Say who you are and what you do first. Think about what would be most useful to the audience and adjust this, if need be. It’s good here to think about any problems that your business can help with and come up with solutions for
- Talk about your experience and how long you’ve been in this line of work. Though be careful if you have just launched. This is because most people will want to work with an established business and won’t want to become early adopters. However, to get around this, you can instead stress the expertise you’ve built up, prior to becoming an entrepreneur
- Mention the type of clients you work with and any good feedback you’ve had
- Try to finish with a ‘call to action’, such as next steps if anyone’s interested in working with you.
After the networking event
It’s good to have a system in place for after the event. You can use LinkedIn to connect with the people you’ve met. You could also have a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system to keep an update on your contacts. This is particularly the case if they’ve looked interested in your product or service. There are plenty of free ones online. They are particularly useful in reminding you to follow up with contacts. It helps with effective networking, so that potential clients keep up their awareness of you. Often, although they may be giving you signals that you are interested, their busy lives may take over, so it’s good to try to keep in touch. Connecting on LinkedIn or Twitter, if you are active on those forums, may be the clinch to them remembering you. Even better, if you have really got on well, you can ask them if they’d like to meet for a coffee.
Benefits of networking
Going out to networking events can help you in many ways, it can make you more confident about talking in public about your business. It can lead to opportunities.
Sometimes by going out of your way and getting to know people, an unexpected lucky event can occur when you are least expecting it. For example, say you bump into someone who remembers you’ve got an expertise in a particular area, that’s met you several times. They could recommend you to a friend of theirs who’s really looking for someone with the skill or product you can offer. So it doesn’t matter if at a networking event, you are talking to a person who you’ll think will never be interested in your business. If you get on with them at a personal level, they’re still worth talking to, as you never know who they know. By putting yourself in as many places as possible therefore, you can be in the right place at the right time. It does take hard work though.
Types of events you can look out for
You can look out for local business networking events, there are many that you can find online. However, I recommend looking at the Chamber of Trade and Commerce. They often have free business events you can attend.
For further effective networking you can also go to conferences and trade events. There are plenty of other opportunities to network at outside of these sorts of arenas.
Final word about following up
Just remember that it can be quite a slow transition through the ‘meet-like-know-trust’ stages. Therefore it’s really important to keep up the networking and to follow up afterwards. You might have several action points after the networking session e.g. to forward them an email of a contact that might be interested in their business, or they have suggested another event that might be of interest to you, or they may have been interested in what you do etc. So, for effective networking make a note of these. Also use the CRM you’ve set up and really be sure to put some investment into all the work you’ve done, it’ll all be worth it in the end.
If you liked this blog, I’ve also written a blog about starting your own business.
By the way, I’ve decided to publish my new blogs on Medium. You can access them from my Medium profile page.