Thinking about networking for the first time? Or perhaps you’re not getting as much out of your networking as you thought you would? There are ways to make sure you are both comfortable and productive as a regular networker – and that route to success starts before you even get there.
Pick the right networking groups
Don’t just turn up to the first group you hear about – networking is part of your marketing strategy, so it should be as well-informed as your email, social media or advertising campaigns. That means looking for networking groups where you’ll meet the people you really want to do business with. There’s no shortage of groups out there, so take the time to find the ones that fit with your business. You could get a virtual assistant to help research this; they are likely to be aware of most of the main events and can manage bookings and follow-ups for you.
Think about time and format
You could easily spend your whole working week at networking events. But that’s not an effective use of your time. If you’re an early morning person, look for breakfast meetings that are done and dusted by 9am so you can get on with the day. If you have a demanding role, evening options might be best for you. And for others, lunch-time networking helps to usefully fill a gap between client meetings. Find out whether the group holds structured meetings or is just a drink-and-a-chat meeting – you need to approach these meetings differently.
Know who you want to meet
Know who you want to talk to. Many networking groups give a list of attendees in advance, which lets you pinpoint the people you’d most like to meet. Don’t be afraid to ask the meeting organiser to introduce you – it’s in their interests to make sure you make good connections. Remember that networking is about relationships, not a hard sell, so once you are introduced to your target person, don’t launch in with a pitch – listen to them first to find out what they need.
Know what you’re going to say
Understanding how you are going to position your business when you talk to people is key to networking success. Can you explain your business easily? Can you tell people how it will help them? Rather than saying: “I’m a business consultant,” for example, you could say: “I help small business owners save time and money.” That’s far more appealing to the listener and allows them to ask how you can do that – giving you the opportunity to showcase your skills.
Have an objective
The main objective for people attending networking events used to be the number of business cards they could give out and collect in. But networkers today understand that this marketing activity works best when you give it time and work on building proper relationships. So instead of just coming home with a pile of cards, why not aim to come home with one meeting in your diary? It might just be a coffee; it might be with someone you can collaborate with rather than someone you can sell to – but it’s the start of a business relationship that might lead to a sale in the future. Our outsourced sales support can help you with your follow-ups too.
Whilst giving out business cards isn’t the main aim, you will need to have some with you, because you are likely to be asked either to join a handing-round session, or meet individuals who want your details. You may also want to take leaflets or promotional items, but make sure you’re going to the type of meeting where this is acceptable. Have your diary with you so you can make appointments there and then and, depending on your business, you might want to bring your tablet along so you can show people your work in action if they are showing real interest.
Now that you’ve used our virtual assistant service tips to get ready for your networking meeting, it’s time to get out there and get networking! If you need help with finding networking groups, preparing marketing material or following up your meeting with virtual assistant diary organising help, feel free to call us on 0800 994 9016 or click here to request a free consultation.