Networking is a great way to get clients and customers in your pipeline if you know how to do it well. When people are face to face with you, they have a much better opportunity to decide if they want to work with you, buy from you, or refer to you.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Get out from behind your computer because meeting prospects in person is the most effective marketing strategy.
I am an introvert and networking is not easy for me. But I am learning how to do it and actually enjoy it. I went to my first networking event in Honolulu in July and the second one in August. By the time I went to the third event in September, I actually knew people and had fun! One woman recognized me from high school 40 years ago, came up to talk to me, and then introduced me to a bunch of interesting people.
The tip that has helped me the most in networking is simply to be a good listener. People love to talk about themselves and their products or services. People long for someone to be attentive to them. The best good tact for sales is to be genuinely interested in other people and give them the opportunity to talk about themselves.
But don’t wait for people to come up to you, it is totally OK at networking events to walk up to anyone and everyone and introduce yourself. THEN begin to listen.
I just finished Dale Carnegie’s classic, How To Win Friends and Influence People. I highly recommend it. Dale says, “The world is full of people who are grabbing and self seeking. So the rare person who unselfishly tries to serve others has an enormous advantage. He has little competition.”
The famous Dale Carnegie sales trainings are based on Dale’s basic principle: Be a good listener. Encourage people to talk about themselves.
Styles of Networking
There are different styles of networking, so choose the one that works best for you:
1) The Quantity Method
I have a networking coach in Honolulu who tells me not to come to any networking event unless I bring 100 of my business cards and keep them accessible in my left hand as I introduce myself to people.
He has stacks of business cards organized by date and event, and emails each person after the event saying how glad he was to meet them.
He says it is important to have a professionally made name plaque attached to one’s right side at collar bone level.
He made himself a plaque that says “Greeter” and he stands at the door to any event and greets people as they walk in—on his own authority!!! That’s pretty gutsy.
2) The Quality Method
I prefer this method, which is more my style. I hone in on the list of the 25 organizations my networking coach gave me and decide which ones are going to be attended by the kind of clients I want—which in my case is executives. To me, it is a waste of time to go to a networking event full of people who are not my kind of clients. My networking guru thinks I am a snob.
3) The Volunteer Method
I spoke to a very successful businessman last week who said he scrapped all the networking events because they just weren’t worthwhile for him. He markets to chief executives. His opinion is that Chamber of Commerce events are full of people who are selling, but not buying.
His most powerful way to get clients is to volunteer in places he can meet his target population. For him it has been most productive to be a voluntary board member of highly visible companies.
Think about your prospective clients and customers and where they might congregate or network. . . and find the way to be there.
For networking events, follow these simple tips my coach gave me: Polish your elevator speech, dress appropriately, have your name plaque made professionally, and take a stack of business cards. Then approach people, introduce yourself and ask them about their businesses. Ask questions, listen for their pain points, and tell them briefly how you could help.
You will be very successful, and your life will be enriched with interesting people.