Why are you networking anyway?
There are many reasons to network, the big 3 are; you are looking for sales leads (prospects), you want to meet referral sources (those individuals who can refer you to clients) or you are looking for a job. Regardless of your reasons most people are wasting their time and money because they don’t understand these 3 simple steps to networking success.
1. Networking is NOT selling
Networking is a marketing activity not a selling opportunity. If you are “selling” to everyone in the room, you’ll alienate yourself. Take the opportunity to ask some good, stimulating questions and then be quiet and listen to the answers. Just remember you’re there to meet people, ask questions to determine if there is a mutual benefit to getting to know each other further and see if they would be open to meeting at a later date.
2. Understand what networking success is
Clearly define your reasons for networking, this will help you focus on meeting the right people (you’ll know they are the right people by asking the right questions) and identifying the most productive events to attend. Set a quantitative goal for each event. I try and come away from an event with at least 3 (sometimes 5) people I believe are worthwhile following up with. You may have to meet 10 -15 people at an event to find the 3-5 you are looking for.
3. Getting results
Effectively “working a room” comes naturally to very few people, it’s a learned skill. Most people have some level of fear about walking into a room of complete strangers and trying to strike up a conversation. If you follow the 3-90-3 Rule you can improve your skills, your confidence and your success.
The 3-90-3 Rule
3 – Your goal is to meet 3 people worthwhile following up with.
90 – Meet someone new in the first 90 seconds. The easiest place to do this is at the registration table or in the coffee/drink line. Most of these people haven’t met anyone either and are probably thinking the same thing as you “who am I going to talk to first?”
3 – Prepare at least 3 new questions in advance. This will give you confidence in starting new conversations and help you to get some useful information. Ask questions that will help you understand if your businesses are compatible and if you are going to be able to provide quality referrals to this person.
Questions to consider:
Who/what are your ideal clients? (industry, size, location, type of need etc).
How has the recession affected your clients?
What makes you (or your company) different from your competition?
Follow up or don’t bother
Have a system for following up. Hopefully you’ve made a few brief notes on the person’s business card to jog your memory on some important facts. The next day, enter their contact information into your contact management system and schedule your follow up. I like to request a connection on LinkedIn, it gives me a powerful connecting point with the person, but that topic is for another post. Despite what they say, they won’t follow up with you, you have to take the time to reach out. Set up a time to meet and get to know the person better. This is just the beginning of a relationship that may take weeks or months to develop.
You won’t waste your time and money at networking events if you do a little preparation, focus on meeting quality people and follow up!!