Networking is building relationships, getting the word out about what you do, and looking for ways to contribute to others. In the process, you’ll create a pool of contacts from which you can draw clients, referrals, resources, ideas, and information.
If the following sounds over simplified and should be common sense, then take a good look at your networking success and identify if you are as successful as you can be. Chances are there’s potential for improvement. Sometimes, it helps to go back to the basics.
Before attending a networking event, set some goals, such as meeting a certain number of people, finding answers to questions, and setting up a meeting with a potential client you’d like to get to know better.
Introduce yourself naturally by offering our hand. Potential ice breakers include:
“Hi, my name is……. I haven’t met you yet.”
“Hi, my name is……. How did you hear of this event?”
“Hi, my name is……. What part of town do you work in?”
When you describe what you do, don’t use jargon or acronyms. Most people are too embarrassed to admit they don’t know what you’re talking about, and if they can’t easily explain to others what you do, they won’t be able to relate to or refer your company.
Always carry a stack of business cards with you and hand them out if the opportunity comes up organically. Any social event is a networking opportunity.
Be curious – ask questions but primarily listen! Most people love a good listener and are happy to talk about the subject they know best – themselves. To encourage conversation, ask open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no response. Important questions to ask:
“So, how are you guys doing in this economy?”
“That is Great! Nowadays, most of what you hear is how companies are not doing well. What are you doing differently?” (If “positive” answer is received).
“What is the biggest challenge your company is facing right now?” or “What is your most urgent business problem?” (If “negative” answer is received).
Lastly, just be yourself. It doesn’t take long for most people to read between the lines, so be genuine, show a true interest, and leave the conversation before it gets awkward. If you handle the interaction well, you’ll have earned the opportunity to follow up.
Craig Miller is the Founder & Director of B2B Networking Chattanooga, for more information go to: www.b2bnetworkingchattanooga.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org