Today's blog is a summary of business networking tips and tricks I have learned over the last 8 months. During the last 8 months I have been to countless different networking events, some of which I have been to multiple times. When I went to my first few events I was sure this whole networking thing was a waste of time. I did not seem to get anything out of them and definitely did not generate any sales. From what I read though, networking was supposed to be one of, if not the most effective way to generate new customers. So I decided to do some research on how I could get better at networking. I researched online and talked to people who seemed to be successful at it. I then took the new information I learned and tested it at various events. Below are the tips and tricks I have found to be the most useful.
1. Talk To As Many People As You Can
The more people you meet the better. As a wise co-worker of mine often told me; if you shake the hand of 10 people per day you will be a millionaire by the time you are forty. I am not sure on the metrics of this calculation, but I definitely agree with the principle. Actually I think if you do this you might be a millionaire by the time you are 30. If you are constantly meeting new people you will build relationships, find customers, find great suppliers and discover new business opportunities.
To talk to as many people as you can you need to be disciplined and tactful because you can't talk for to long with any one person. If you are not the most outgoing person like myself you have to push yourself to go approach everyone in the room. Even the people you do not feel comfortable approaching and normally would not talk to. When talking with people you will need to direct the conversation so that you can quickly get the information you want. This needs to be a balance of personal and business topics to build rapport and receive sufficient information for a follow up email or call but you will know once you are no longer building further rapport, or the contact is not worth investing much time. At that point it is best to thank them for their time and move onto the next person. Ideally what you want to do is talk to everyone in the room and get their contact information. Which is tip #2.
2. Get Everyone's Contact Information
I would say this combined with tip #1 is the most important tip of all the tips listed here. Once I started setting this as my goal for networking events I went to my results went through the roof. The more people's contact information you get the more people you will be able to follow-up with and potentially get a meeting with. So if you can increase the number of emails or phone numbers you get from 10 to 20 you should see about a double in the number of meetings and sales from an event. Even if you don't get a chance to talk to everyone it is critical that you get the contact information from everyone you do talk to. If you ask for a business card and they don't have one ask them to write down their phone number or email. I have never not been able to get a person's contact information. It is a networking event so people are their to give out their contact information, so you should never feel shy about asking for a person's contact information and should be able to get at least an email or phone number from everyone. If you employ only these first two tips I guarantee you will see a dramatic improvement in your results you thought was not even possible.
3. Start By Getting The Other Person Talking
If you can get the other person talking this works in your advantage because you are getting information about them, their company and their needs. This is exactly what you want because then you can quickly determine if they are a prospect and start working on determining their hot buttons. When other people are talking they will also most likely be more engaged and if they are engaged it will help you build rapport with that person. A way to do this is to start with an open ended question like "What brings you here tonight?" or "So Rob, what do you do at company XYZ". The key is to start with an open ended question and then continue with more open ended questions based on the response you get.
4. Don't Try And Sell
There is nothing more awkward then someone trying to sell you something immediately upon meeting them. I find the approach that works best for me is to go in with the goal of finding good prospects and then trying to set up meetings with those people. Anytime I have tried to sell something it has not worked and it also just did not feel natural. If the interaction is going well I will either ask for the meeting in the discussion and try and set a date, or if the conversation is more casual I will end the conversation with a line hinting at that we should meet. Something like "It was nice talking to you, we should meet up sometime to see if we can help each other. I'll send you an email. Have a great night."
5. Try And Help If You Can
People love getting free help and like people that help them. If you can somehow help the people you are talking with, even as simple as giving them a name of someone else they should talk to, you will instantly build rapport and trust with that person. With increased rapport and trust you will be much more likely to be able to secure a meeting and potentially close a sale. A perfect example is a gentlemen that I advertised his company for free on my website after meeting him at a networking event. After I asked if he would like me to do this for him, he suggested we meet to see if he would be interested in using Profitworks' services.
6. Follow Up Quickly After The Networking Event
I have experienced the best results from networking events when I follow up quickly after the event. Usually the next day is the best. If I wait longer then this I have found I get a lower response rate. By emailing the day after I have seen on average about a 60% increase in response rate.
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I hope this article on business networking tips and tricks will help you be more effective in your networking and help you generate new customers.