There’s no point in telling a group of tradespeople what you’ve done for a financial business and vice versa; they just won’t get it.
I’m always prepared to give a quick 60-second pitch, and only choose one thing my business does. The reason for this is a person will only ever remember the first or second thing you do, so it’s important to do your research first by asking questions of the organiser.
I never go into a networking meeting to sell myself. I’m genuinely interested in people and love learning what they do, so make genuine connections that become friends over time, so we really want to help each other’s businesses.
When I meet new people, I ALWAYS ask them what they do first. People love telling you what they do, so I LISTEN and never INTERRUPT. I ask questions if there’s anything I don’t understand, as this shows interest. It’s inevitable they will ask what you do too, and this is when I will start telling them about what my company does. We end up exchanging cards and keeping in contact.
It’s very important – and I can’t stress this enough – NEVER sell at a network meeting. They are not there to buy your goods or service. They are there for the same reason as you. Yes, they want more business. Yes, they need more clients. But they may not necessarily need what you have. This is why it’s so important to listen to what they say, and if you know of anyone who could do with their services or want what they are selling, then REFER them to the people you know once you’ve learnt more about them.
Don’t expect anything back as they won’t necessarily know anyone who needs what you do. However, think about it. If you refer someone to this person and they gain a new client through you, they will be singing your praises to people they know who in turn will know other people. This is how word-of-mouth advertising works. This is how small businesses advertise as we don’t have massive budgets like larger brands and companies.
Also, don’t expect after going to one meeting you will make such a good impression, they will remember you, trust you and refer you. This takes time. However, it is a quicker way of growing your business against social media advertising.
People buy people. If you come across as SALESY – people at network meetings will avoid you.
I go with the aim of speaking to two or three people as I know I’ll never get around to them all. And imagine, if you are trying to speak to everyone, you’d have probably one minute per person and you won’t come across as genuine, just someone who wants to get as many contacts as is available!
Once you’ve met them a few times, or if you feel you can help them but there’s not enough time at the meeting, then arrange to meet up for a coffee to find out more about them. This is also an opportunity for them to find out more about you.
One big mistake I made when I started networking was when people handed out their business cards; I’d take them all! Then I’d get home and forget who they belonged to! A good tip is if you are particularly interested in learning more about a person, write a little note on the business card so you don’t forget.
I personally have a spreadsheet with all their details and have a comment section on where I met them, as well as the reason why I thought they would be a good person to meet up with. This helps me remember them, so when I do make contact I at least have some idea of what they do. If the company has a website, I make sure I visit it to find out as much as possible.
Above all, be yourself, smile, be genuine. Always do what you say and follow up with what you said you’d do.
ExecProVA Virtual Assistant
Business & management coach, mentor, trainer, author, speaker, social entrepreneur, (and chief pot and bottle washer!)