I just love networking, whether it be at a conference, at a briefing, at an informal drinks event or even on the train. However whilst I would like to think of myself as a bit of a networking pro these days, I have had my fair share of networking fails over the years. With this in mind I wanted to share some of my top networking tips with you in the hope that you don’t make the same mistakes as me…
Don’t forget to connect
If you’re attending a networking event, don’t make it your overall intention to win clients. If you do you’ll miss out on what you could really benefit from: some great connections. Rather focus on getting to know these people. These connections may not ultimately become sales leads, but don’t underestimate the value they might offer you over time. Don’t forget that good business networking is the pairing of individuals who, through trust and rapport, will become walking advertisements for one another.
Put your iPad away
I once saw a guy pull out his iPad at an industry event and start showing his sales creds to a poor chap. I can’t tell you how awkward it was. In sales, the aim isn’t about what you have to offer, it’s about listening to the other person and understanding what they need and this is exactly what you must do when networking too. So leave the sales pitch to the follow up meetings and instead use this time to really genuinely understand the person you are talking to and connect with them.
Don’t do a Bridget Jones
Don’t go and jump head first into a conversation with a massive group of people you don’t know and certainly don’t do a Bridget by ferociously laughing at a joke you only caught the tail end of. Instead take some time to look around the room and choose to approach people who may be on their own or in groups of two. When at a conference, I always find it beneficial to head out to the sides of the conference hall, rather than going straight to the stands in the middle. These guys tend to have less footfall, so are more willing to have a chat. It’s a great warm up technique too!
Follow up or lose out
Do follow up quickly on referrals. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the same day – this may look a little desperate, but a well-timed call or email the following day will serve you well.
Business card landfill
And when following up here is a good tip… Don’t come away from a conference or event with a handbag or pocket full of random business cards. If you are anything like me you will almost certainly forget who you spoke to and what you spoke to them about. Instead walk away from each of your conversations to a quiet place and write a little note on the business card to remind yourself of the conversation you just had. Even better, write down something personal about them. They like cats, they have 2 small children, they are due to go on holiday etc. This means that when you follow up with them you have a great one line opener which we will really make you stand out from the crowds.
Most importantly enjoy it! Networking is great fun and can be incredibly rewarding when you do it well. So get out there and start talking.