As summer is winding down, many people are starting to book more time in their schedules for networking meetings and events. After all, they can be great for promoting one’s business.
And I have to admit, I am not one of them. I hate networking events, even though I know the can be beneficial to my business.
If you are like me, you also dread going to networking events. Why? Because many networking events seem just like a endless stream of sales pitches and canned elevator speeches- with everyone trying to get the elusive client or customer. I call these people the net-jerks. (Get it? Jerk rhymes with work… Oh, never mind.)
I know it isn’t easy to grow a small business. The sales function is a time consuming task with a constant need to fill your “sales funnel” with fresh, qualified prospects on a regular basis. That’s the reson so many people suggest using networking as a great way to build your presence and attract more customers.
But the thing is: networking is about making contacts and building relationships. And you can’t do that with just a 30-second pitch. Sure, you need one of those, too, but if you really want to get warm prospects and build a better network for referrals, you need to get more creative..
To be remembered and build a powerful presence, you need to stop talking about how you and your wares are so wonderful — and start listening. Find out others needs and wants (even if they don’t apply to your business) and offer to help them find the answer.
So if you want to see me at your networking event this fall, can you do me a favor and follow these tips?
- Ask open-ended questions in networking conversations. It means asking questions that make people answer more than just yes or no. For example, instead of asking if they know of anyone who needs public relations services, ask how they are currently approaching the media. This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them.
- Become known as a powerful resource for others. When you are known as a reliable resource, people remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc. Not only do people see you as credible and sincere, but also keeps you on-top-of-mind, meaning they remember you more often than others.
- Be able to articulate what you are looking for and how others may help you. Too often people in conversations ask, “How may I help you?” and no immediate answer comes to mind. Oh yeah… and don’t just say, “I am looking for someone who need<fill-in-your-product-or service-here>” answer.
- Make sure you follow up as soon as you can. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor that and your referrals will grow.
- Call those you meet who may benefit from what you do and vice versa. Express that you enjoyed meeting them, and ask if you could get together and share ideas.