Business Networking for Beginners
You’ve arrived at your business networking event, and your intro is running through your head. At some point there is going to be ‘open networking’. This is your chance to make the most of being at the event and your moment to shine! You will most likely find that once you are up and running, conversations will flow but having a bank of useful questions will keep things moving.
Here are some of tried and tested favourites:
What brings you here?
Have you been to (the event) before?
Do you know many people here?
Are you a member? and if so, How do you find the commitment/events/results?
What do you enjoy most about (what they do)?
How did you get into ….. ?
Remember the list of attendees mentioned in Part One? If you’ve identified someone you definitely want to speak to then keep an eye on those name badges. People are quite flattered and ready to talk if you just go up to them, look them in the eye and say ‘Oh hi, I really wanted to speak to you if you have a moment?’
And, listen. At a networking event you of course want to tell people about what you do and seek out potential opportunities, but your best opportunities may not even be in the room. A good networker builds a rapport with others, you want them to feel comfortable telling you about their business without competing for the conversation. You want them to think of you if a referral comes their way.
* * * * * * * * *
#LinkedInLocalSydney events are great opportunities for networking in a ‘no sales’, ‘no pitching’ environment where the focus is on getting to know the real people behind their public profiles. By genuinely connecting with those you meet at these events you will develop authentic relationships and have fun while learning about how to most effectively use LinkedIn through the top tips that Co-Hosts, Jillian Bullock and Jane Jackson provide at each event. If business or opportunities arise as a result of developing those relationships further after the event, that’s a great bonus! To find out more about these events follow Jane and Jillian on LinkedIn!
* * * * * * * * *
Depending on the structure of the event, there may be the chance for one to one sessions after open networking. Be sure to follow up with new contacts via email, social media or a telephone call afterwards. It’s very unlikely you will walk out of a network event with an armful of business, but you should have a bag (or pocket) full of new contacts and leads!
You return to base from your networking event, yes, you made it out the other side! There are probably a few people or conversations that are front of mind, so what do you do now?
First, sort through those card and flyers. Pull out all the most relevant ones and those from people you have definite actions or conversations to follow up. If you are a job seeker, remember the golden rule when networking for a job
Get these recorded somewhere – you can put the details into a spreadsheet, into a CRM (customer relationship management) system or use a card scanner app on your phone. A spreadsheet or other free system such as Hubspot or Trello works well. The important thing is to record the information and be able to make notes against it.
You want to move on these most relevant contacts within 24 hours, whilst you are still front of mind and the contact remembers you. An email, a call or a LinkedIn connect message are your best options for this.
Never request a connection on LinkedIn without a message. Not only is it a missed opportunity to say something but also more open and professional. Whatever communication you choose, DO NOT MAKE IT A SALES MESSAGE. Your contact will receive many sales messages from the event, the fact you don’t do this will make you stand out! Instead:
- Mention a conversation or something that happened at the event.
- Always offer help before asking for anything.
- Ask to meet up to continue the discussion (not for a sales pitch)
- If using email, write an informative subject line – not just the name of your company and keep to the point.
- Connect on LinkedIn, with a message, even if you email too. You can say you have emailed and thought it would be useful to connect on LinkedIn too – a extra signpost to your email.
- Follow them on Twitter, like their Facebook Page or connect on LinkedIn but don’t add them to your Facebook friends – business contacts do not want to see pictures of your dog, know what your Aunt did for their birthday or how your love life is going!
- Update your CRM/spreadsheet with what you have sent, said and when.
It is even possible to connect with people you had identified but missed at the event. Something along the lines of ‘what a great event, I was disappointed that time ran out before we had the opportunity to speak because ….’. It may not always work but it’s the one opportunity you have to legitimately connect with someone you haven’t even ever spoken to!
What NOT to do
- Don’t bombard contacts with sales calls and standard emails or creepy connection requests.
- Don’t make promises you can’t deliver
- Don’t fabricate opportunities for their business to win a contacts ear.
- Don’t add them as a Facebook friend (see above)
For all the less immediate or obvious contacts, still collect their data and connect with these contacts as appropriate. A LinkedIn connection request with an appropriate message and a following on Twitter is usually sufficient. A message along the lines of ‘it was interesting to learn what you and (business name) offer, I thought it would be useful to connect on here should we or associates require similar services in the future. My business can …… (1 sentence)’.
This professionally and efficiently keeps contact touch points open for future requirements and referrals on a mutual basis. This is almost always positively received, remember they were there to network too! It will also show you to their LinkedIn contacts and they may follow you back and retweet you on twitter.
I hope you have found this series on Business Networking useful. If you have read both parts you will be significantly better equipped than many of the other attendees at a networking event and get the most you can out of your time there.
If you’d like to find out more about how to network effectively, book an exploratory conversation with Jane