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12 Networking Rules

Be genuinely interested in what other people do

Be genuinely interested in what other people do

Networking is an essential activity for anyone in business and it is especially important for people in small businesses to carry out. Small businesses should be very wary of gambling precious resources on buying lists, running advertising campaigns, or carrying out mass mailings.

Networking in its face to face or internet forms is effective, it is easy to measure results and builds strong business for the present and future.As a part of the marketing mix, it has to be near the top of the list for allocation of resources for small businesses.

Nevertheless, it has to be carried out in a professional, targeted and considered way. If you network in an amateur way, you will immediately present your business as one which is less than credible. I network a lot and it is fruitful. I meet a lot of people and some of them become clients and some of them become contacts.

Some events are clear that networking is a definite part of the structure. Some events do not stress that networking is part of the structure but it is implied by the fact that everyone eats and drinks together at the event and if you are not using the time to network then you that’s your bad luck. Some events are well organised for networking. Some are poor.

The more I attend networking events, the more I learn about how to make them work for me and other people. I follow some rules which make the time productive and increase the return that you gain from it. If you are thinking about whether to do more networking as part of your marketing mix, these rules might help you.

1. Ensure that the event is relevant to your niche.

  • You’re wasting your time and other people’s time if you attend a networking event where your skills or product is irrelevant.

2. Don’t worry too much about how many people will be there.

  • You’re not going to be able to meet everyone at an event, so aim for quality not quantity of contacts.

3. Be genuinely interested in what other people do.

  • People like talking about themselves. Become attuned to listening with enthusiasm to what other people do. It’s also quite disarming and people warm to people who listen. They tell you more when you listen so you can understand what they do more thoroughly and understand their problems.

4. Be ready to explain what you do in less then 60 seconds.

  • If you can’t do this, how can you expect other people to understand what you do. For example, if you’re a web designer, don’t say “I build web sites”. Say “I help customers sell complex products and solutions through the web”. You’ll be surprised at how many people warm to this explanation.

5. Have the mindeset of ‘I’m here to help’.

    People come to networking sessions expecting to sell when they are new to it. This is a mistake. People don’t like to feel pressure at networking events, especially when you are a virtual stranger to them. If you attend networking sessions with the premise that what you do is very helpful and combine it with the rule about being genuinely interested in people, your time will be far more productive.

6. Take business your business cards.

  • You need to leave a lasting impression and your business card is an ‘aide memoire’ to the people you met. I often meet people at networking events without business cards. Big mistake.

7. Make sure you are presentable.

  • Dress accordingly to the event and make sure you are clean. I met someone at a networking session who smelt of body odour and smelt as though he had drunk too much of the free wine. It doesn’t look good.

8. Don’t talk to one person for too long.

  • If you find that someone you have met does not look like they are interested in what you do, then politely move on. Furthermore, although you want quality rather than quantity, you don’t want to miss out on any chances to meet others at the event.

9. Don’t expect to sell then and there.

  • You’ll come across as pushy if you try to sell immediately. Networking is about building relationships and trust. People have often paid to come to events to listen to other people giving seminars and pouncing salespeople are not generally welcome. However, someone who has listenend to what they have said and who makes some genuine suggestions on how to overcome they’re challenge will be viewed more favourably.

10. Treat your contacts as if they were your friends.

  • You wouldn’t sell a good friend of yours a car which was dangerous. So, don’t treat any contacts you meet with anything other than freindly respect.  For example, you might soon see that you cannot help them with your product or service, but you do know someone who can. They will thank you for your honesty and your contact may refer you to other people that you can help.

11. Follow up your contacts.

  • Be prompt in following up your contacts but not pushy. You invested the time in attending the networking event so make sure you make use of the time by calling your new contacts.

12. Attend at least networking event per month.

  • The more you attend networking events or seminars, the more confident you will become at meeting new people and targeting relevant events.
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