I attend hundreds of networking events per year and, as the author of Business Networking for Dummies, I’m invited to speak to thousands of business owners during the year on how they can get more business and more sales from their networking activity.
Here’s where I find so many people go so wrong.
A networking event is NOT a sales meeting. The people there are not queuing for you to sell to them. But you will still make sales, if you handle the environment correctly.
When you attend a networking event, can I presume that you do so for the sake of your business? To put that a little more bluntly, you go to a networking event so that you can make sales or find new clients?
Can I also presume that most people are similar? So the majority of people in the room at any networking event are there for their own good and/or the good of their business?
This is exactly the basis I approach every networking event. I make an assumption that nobody cares about my business, they are all there for themselves. They’ve dragged themselves out of bed early and eaten a cooked breakfast they didn’t really want because they want to improve their business. They certainly didn’t go to all that effort just so that they could listen to a sales pitch from me.
One of my favourite business books is called “How to win friends and influence people“, written by Dale Carnegie in 1937. My favourite quote from the book, and the quote which pretty much sums up the book too, is this:
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”.
I use networking events to build my network, to gain more contacts and prospects. I do that by being genuinely interested in the other person I am speaking to. Remembering (and making notes on) what they said, and, if appropriate, asking for permission to follow up and, crucially, make an appointment outside of the networking meeting to talk further. Typically, in any networking conversation, I hardly mention my business or my services. I chat, ask questions, be interested in the other guy and, if I genuinely think their business would benefit from my services, at the end of the conversation I request that we speak, at first on the ‘phone, to see if that we can take that conversation further.
If I don’t think my services would be a good fit for their business right now, I promise to keep in touch and then do so.
Here are five ways in which I conduct myself at any networking meeting, to ensure I get the most value from it:
- Arrive early – that way you have the maximum amount of time for starting the little conversations which may lead to the big opportunities.
- Break the ice by going for the lowest common denominator – far too often people stress about having a clever conversation starter. I go for something I can guarantee I have in common with the other person. We are both at the same networking event so we have that in common straight away. I smile and start to talk about the traffic, the parking, the coffee (or lack of) or something else which will just get us going. Then I go with the flow and see where the conversation leads us.
- Make notes immediately after the meeting – whilst each conversation is fresh in my mind I make notes on what we discussed, what I promised to do next, and then if I have committed to following up I do so, when I promised to do so. Keep the first promise you make to someone. Often they won’t notice that you have. But that’s better than them noticing when you haven’t.
- Don’t rush off – make time in your diary so that if an opportunity presents itself, you can continue that conversation whilst it is still warm. So often I see people rush off at the end of a meeting, just because that’s what they think they should do, when they could have had a proper meeting with someone they have met there and then.
- Remember that the networking meeting is the start of the conversation – now it is your job to continue the conversation. Everyone else is just as busy as you, it’s your job to remind them that you exist, not their job to remember.
Networking, when handled properly, can lead to huge opportunities. Get yourself out there, start conversations and be open to the opportunities which will present themselves.
More of Stefan’s networking tips and advice can be found over at his website stefanthomas.biz
Stefan Thomas – networking expert, speaker, author of ‘Business Networking for Dummies’
After over 750 networking events and a massive amount of social media activity over the last eight years, Stefan has made all the mistakes you could make. But you don’t have to. He can help you to accelerate the results you get from networking, based on his experience and love of networking as a route to market. Most people think they know how to network and are then frustrated when they don’t get the results they expected. Don’t be most people.
Buy Stefan’s Amazon best selling business book: Business Networking for Dummies
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Official Website: stefanthomas.biz
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