Networking, the 1990’s word for prospecting, has become an important business tool. It’s inexpensive (often free), time effective (you can usually make 2030 contacts in a couple of hours), and has more of a social overtone (it’s easier to do business socially).
If you question the value of networking, consider this… If there are 100 people in a room, and you have two hours to network, you can speak to at least 50% of them and probably make 30 contacts. How long would it take you to make 50 sales calls in any other environment?
Many people go to networking events; very few actually know how to network effectively. Below are some techniques and tools you can use to be a more effective and productive networker.
The fundamental rules of networking are…
- Show up early, ready to move, full of cards.
- If you attend a business event with a friend or associate, split up. It’s a waste of time to walk, talk, or sit together.
- Walk the crowd once. Get familiar with the people and the room.
- Shake firmly… no one wants to shake hands with a dead fish.
- Keep your commercial to 15 seconds OR LESS.
- Have your 15second commercial down pat.
- Be happy, enthusiastic, and positive. Don’t be grumbling or lamenting your “tough day.” People want to do business with a winner, not a whiner.
- Don’t waste time if the person isn’t a good prospect.
- Don’t buttin. Interrupting can create a bad first impression. Stand close by, and when a pause or opening appears… jump in.
- Eat early. It’s hard to eat and mingle. Get your fill when you first arrive so you are free to shake hands, talk without spitting food, and work the crowd effectively.
- Don’t drink. If everyone else is a bit loose, you’ll have the distinct advantage by being sober (Have a few beers after the event to celebrate all your contacts).
- Stay until the end. The longer you stay the more contacts you’ll make.
If you say “I go to networking events, but I don’t get many prospects,” it means you’re not following the fundamentals, OR you’re not networking where your prime prospects might be.
Event selection is as important as networking itself. Each week the Business Journal publishes a list of business events, and the Charlotte Chamber publishes a monthly calendar. Don’t overlook social and cultural events as networking possibilities. Select those events that may attract your customer, or people who you want to get to know.
These are the fundamentals. If you practice these rules you will have a better chance to succeed at networking. Next week we’ll get to networking 102, when the topic will be the subtle rules of networking success or the tricks of working a room.
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