10 top tips to get sustainable business through networking:
1. Develop a plan
You need a destination for your life and business. If you don’t know where you are going with your networking how can others help you? Ask yourself the following:
- what is my target market?
- what is my proposition?
- who is likely to have access to my target market?
- how do I get to know them?
- how do I motivate them to introduce me to their network?
When you can answer these questions you are have the basis of a networking plan.
2. Don’t expect early results
Like anything worthwhile, networking takes time and application. Take the time to develop relationships and create a network. Don’t expect to walk into a room of strangers and come away with business – it just doesn’t work like that!
3. Build relationships first
Networking is not about selling – it’s about building relationships. The best business is developed when both parties know, like and trust each other. So take the time to get to know them and establish rapport.
4. Show a genuine interest in other people
You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you. So said Dale Carnegie – and it’s true. People love to talk about their favourite subject – themselves. They will remember you for listening attentively to them! Be prepared to talk to strangers and have an interesting story.
5. Know your target market
What is your target market? Who is your ideal client? Help the people you meet get a clear idea of who you sell to. This means geography, business sector and size. Most importantly what sort of issues they have.
6. Prepare your proposition
When asked “What do you do?” develop a quick and interesting answer. Instead of saying “I’m an IFA”, you could reply “I make sure that people enjoy their retirement by not being short of money.” Inevitably, you will be asked how you do that. Focus on the outcomes and benefits you bring.
7. Listen more than talk - and ask open questions
There are three types of people – those who listen, those who talk and those who are waiting to talk! Become an active listener and see how you can help people you meet. By being aware of their needs you can connect them to people in your network. This will involve asking open questions. People usually find the most interesting subject is themselves! Make it easy for them to expand their answers rather than just replying with a “Yes” or “No”. For example “That’s interesting, how do you do that?”
8. Always follow up contacts
When you meet someone at an event follow up with a simple e-mail or telephone call confirming where you met and what action, if any, was agreed. Prompt follow ups are essential! Don’t send unsolicited e-mails to people you have not met – it can be viewed as cold calling and can be really annoying!
9. Arrange contact meetings
You’ve establish rapport with someone you’ve met at a networking meeting. It looks as though they might know your target market. How do you take things forward? Simple, meet with them for a coffee and start getting to know them. What makes them tick, what are their successes, their aspirations, their skills and experiences. what they are looking for? See if you can connect them to one of your contacts?
10. Develop Networking Advocates
A networking advocate goes out of their way to recommend your goods and services without being asked or expecting anything in return. Take time to develop the relationships with key members of your network. Go out of your way to connect them to key members of your network and introduce them to people who might benefit from their services. Become an advocate for them. And, guess what? What goes round comes round. People will eventually become advocates for you – and this is where the networking dividend really pays out!
Finally, in the immortal words of Woody Allen:
“80% of success is showing up!”