Have you ever taken the time to analyze how you are spending your work-related time and the business results that come from what you do?
Many people forget to think about networking as work-related, scheduled time. They often go to a networking event if, and only if, it fits into their schedule or what’s left of their open time. They attend, socialize and walk away with no results. In the end, they may have had fun; however, they might believe that these events are not worth going to if they are expecting business from them. Have you ever felt this way?
Change your thinking to change your results!
Let’s have a paradigm shift. What if you planned your networking into your work hours? What if you went to the event with a work-related mindset, looking to make new relationships and build on old ones that could formulate into business growth? What if you were crystal clear with your goals and desired outcomes for the event? For example, you may want to meet two new people and set three one-on-one (kneecap-to-kneecap) appointments with people who you speak to at the event. Would you have different results?
Follow these steps in order to make your networking events productive for your business:
1. Be clear about your goals and desired outcomes.
Start with the end in mind. Know what you want to get out of the event before you walk into the room. Set a goal for how many people you will meet, how many appointments you will set, how many business cards you will collect and/or who you will reconnect with.
Be there with a purpose in mind. Just like in life, if you know what you want, you can achieve it.
2. Talk to people and meet new people.
It can be dangerous to go to a networking event with someone you already know. It is easy to only talk to the people you came with. Break away from the comfort zone of the people you know. Meet someone new, and start a new relationship. Grow your network. Your income is directly related to the size of your network.
When meeting new people at an event, what can you talk about? Ask about them. People love to talk about themselves and often do not have people who are willing to listen. Here are some great conversation topics to consider for when you meet someone for the first time:
• Where are you from originally?
• What brought you here? Why did you decide to attend tonight?
• What do you do? How long have you been doing that? What made you decide to be in your line of work?
• What keeps you doing what you do? What do you love about it?
• If you could alter or change anything about what you’re doing or how you are choosing to do it, what would you change?
• Do you work on a team or alone?
• What business goals or projects are you currently working on?
• What do you like to do when you’re not working?
• Do you have any kids? How old are they? What schools do they go to? (This is a good topic if you live near each other and may have kids in the same school.)
• If they mention anything about being married, you can ask about their spouse or how long they have been married.
• Find out if they have someone in your field who they already work with.
When you ask questions, make sure you listen to the answers. You may find similarities that you can talk about. You may also find out that they have a need or a problem that you can help solve. If you connect well with them, you may be able to set your one-on-one appointment before the event is over.
It all starts with building the relationship. People will do business with people they know, like and trust.
3. Become a card collector rather than a card giver.
How many times have you been given a card and then thrown it away or lost it? No one wants a card that they didn’t ask for, so don’t get in the habit of pushing your card into other people’s hands. By getting their card, it puts you in control of the follow-up. Now, the key is to actually follow up.
4. Have a structured follow-up plan that works.
This should be a plan that you can replicate over and over again after the event is over. You may want to consider things like connecting on social media, adding them to a customer relationship manager (CRM) drip email campaign, sending a card and texting them.
Ask for an appointment. At the appointment, ask for their business.
5. Have fun and be yourself!
Always be authentic. Find the people who like you for who you are instead of trying to be someone you’re not. You can only fake it for so long, so just start out being authentically you.
By following these steps, I have grown my business exponentially. I meet lots of new people and it has gone from being scary to network to being fun. I used to dread networking events and now I look forward to them. I challenge you to go into your next networking event with a purpose. Follow these five steps and see what happens. Please reach out to me and share your results. I’d love to hear from you.