We all know that so much of business comes down to ‘people’ and relationships, both inside and outside of your organisation. Some of the best business advice comes in the form of networking tips and advice.
We also know that building relationships is an incredibly important mechanism for growing your business and succeeding in your chosen field.
So why is it that when it comes to networking, it all becomes so disastrous? We know that relationships are most often dependent (and built upon) establishing trust and a value exchange, right?
My business partner used to work for a large accounting practice and private bank; one of the largest in the UK. She recounts a time where, at a networking event, the owner of a web design company pitched his business undertaking the redesign of the website of her employer.
Mistakes in the above scenario? Firstly, he was talking to an accountant, not the IT Director. He hadn't taken the time to find out. Second, they already employ an in-house IT team larger than his entire company. Third, he was offering no value to this specific relationship.
So here are some thoughts on how to be much, much better networker than this guy.
1- Ask and listen.
Focus on the person that you’re talking to. Ask them about their business, their background and the challenges that they face. Give them time to talk and open up. Ask follow-up questions and be genuinely interested. It’s all about them, not about you.
2- Please don’t pitch.
This is likely the first time you have met the person you’re talking to, so don’t ruin everything by trying to sell something to them. Just be human and make a personal connection. Your objective is never to secure a deal from the get-go; your objective is to make a contact which can develop over time into a relationship.
3- Bring some business cards, but don’t blast them everywhere.
If you do spend some time talking to somebody and feel like there is potential for a mutually beneficial relationship to be developed, offer a business card. Don’t wander around thrusting them into the hands of any takers like a potentially misguided religious zealot on a cold Saturday morning in the town centre.
I’ve been to too many events where panicked-looking men in hastily donned suits sweat all over the place while trying to convince total strangers that they really should part with some hard-earned cash. Don’t be this guy. Relax, take your time and focus on being you. No pressure.
5- Follow-up and offer something of value.
Post-event, feel free to send a follow-up email to those that you connected with best. Just comment that it was great to meet, if you can, offer some suggestions or thoughts on the discussion that you had. It’s important to be delivering value to your new connection, and showing that you do genuinely care about their success. If you feel it would be worthwhile, offer to meet at a later date to discuss over a coffee or a beer.
In a nutshell: keep it relaxed and personal, make sure you add value and take your time. Go out there and start talking!
Dunwiley offers business advice, coaching and strategy consulting to startups and small businesses. If you want to know how to grow your business, how to be more profitable or need another perspective, get in touch. We're based in Salisbury, Wiltshire but work in London, Hampshire and surrounding counties.
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