Relationship building is one of the more valuable benefits from networking events, and if you can connect with the right people then you can not only increase your sales but build a better foundation for the future of your business. Here are some tips on how to use such events to get the maximum benefits of networking events and advantage from them.
"That's the boy scouts marching song," in the words of the great Tom Lehrer, and without proper preparation you will never get the maximum advantage from a networking event. Make sure you have business cards, even if yours is just an online business. You can print individual cards on these machines you find at airports, or invest in having a printer run off a few hundred for you.
You may not need them all, but at least you're prepared. You won't impress anybody if you try to print them yourself - unless you are very professional in doing so. You will not increase your sales by being unprofessional. Make sure you take a pen with you along with a small pad - you will hopefully have a number of contact names and numbers to make note of. It looks terrible if you have to borrow a pen!
Getting to Know You
"Getting to know all about you", so the song from 'The King and I' goes. It's not so much about whom you know but who knows you. You might know all the right people, but do the right people know you? If the important people in your field know you, then you are more likely to benefit than if you know them! It's a fine distinction, but an important one.
So don't attend networking events with the idea of meeting certain people. They might have no interest in you, and might not even be those who can help you to develop your business. Approach those that appear to be relevant to your field of interest.
What to Say
"Polite conversation is rarely either," according to Fran Lebowitz, and this is very true at networking events. Trying to be polite by asking somebody who they work for could be a massive faux pas, so simply ask what service they provide. Do not enter into a conversation unless you feel that the other party could benefit your business - whether from a client or a vendor aspect.
A quick chat, exchange of cards or details, then goodbye - and on to the next person that catches your eye. Many people attending such events get caught up with individuals or groups, and fail to make the best of the event as a consequence. To increase your sales, you are best to keep on the move with an open eye for those that may benefit you or that you believe you could benefit - the two can be synonymous in respect of benefits to your business.
"After you've gone there's no denying" that you should have a bunch of business cards and contact details. That's the whole objective of networking events: to make contacts, seek potential clients and build a framework of trust for relationships and referrals in the future.
If you find potential contacts in your area, then email them later and suggest you meet up for coffee or something. Perhaps this is a contact that could be converted into a client, maybe a vendor that can save you money, or perhaps even a future partner in a joint venture - whichever of these you feel is appropriate, you still have to meet again after the networking event.
If you feel that the relationship could develop, then maybe invite them to some other event you know of in your area. If not, then at least keep their details so you can build up a good contact list. Who knows when they might be useful to you!
Finally. . .
". . .Now my destiny can begin" sings Fergie, and so can yours if you have met the right people and made the right contacts. If not, 'don't worry, be happy,' because you will have many more networking events to attend and many more contacts to meet.
The whole ethos about networking events is, yes, to see what's going on and what's available, but mainly to make mutually beneficial contacts, to build up your contact list and some people even make lifelong friendships that benefit both. You are not there to try to sell your products - you are there to build bridges to enable you to do that.
"Maybe it's hard to find the right people" - perhaps Ian Dury couldn't, but you certainly can by attending these events with a view to learning and making contacts and not to sell, but to increase your sales through the contacts you make. You should also have fun when you are doing this, and you will be surprised how you can attract people to you: the right people. The people that can help you increase your sales and you can help them to achieve the same.
Theresa Todman, Founder of Westchester Networking for Professional (WNFP), where professional connect with decision makers, entrepreneurs and other professionals. To learn more about WNFP visit http://www.wnfp.org.