Effective networking is one of the most crucial skills in the modern business age. Whether you’re a sales person looking for leads, a communications professional seeking out information, or simply looking for your next role or opportunity, great contacts are your lifeline to good business. Regardless of your sector or role, take steps to become a better networker and you’ll reap the benefits!
New to networking?
If you’re new to networking, it can feel quite challenging to walk into a room full of strangers for the first time and wow them with your business skills and acumen, but don’t worry, the first step is to remember that many other people in the room will be just as nervous as you.
Start with small steps and allow your confidence to grow. On the day of the event, wear something you feel confident and comfortable in, so you aren’t shuffling around adjusting your outfit! For ladies, flat shoes can be a blessing if there’s a lot of standing involved. Make sure you’ve got plenty of business cards with you, or a scannable contact card or Quick Response Code for the more digitally savvy.
When you get to the event, take your time and don’t rush. Say hello to the organizers and get yourself a drink. Avoid playing on your phone or rustling papers to overcome initial shyness and smile. If no one approaches you, take the initiative and seek out someone who’s on their own, or join a nearby group with a friendly smile and greeting. Remember, everyone is there for the same purpose and everyone is interested in meeting new people.
Whether you’re a sole trader or a company representative, practice your pitch so you can express who you are and what you do, quickly and easily. Be clear why you’re networking and have an objective in mind. Learn to listen carefully as this is the best way of building rapport and developing a useful conversation that will make you memorable. Develop the art of closing a conversation and moving onto your next contact graciously and politely and remember that a little humor goes a long way.
The art of the follow up
After your networking event, make notes of who you met and follow up with a brief note or e-mail. Thank them for their time and say that you were pleased to meet them. If you want to follow up further, suggest a way to do this and drop in a personal comment or follow-up to something they mentioned to show that you listened and remembered them properly. If you can make a follow-up contact with some advice or guidance related to an area they expressed a need for support in, they’ll certainly remember you for all the right reasons!
Remember, networking is there for a purpose and it should become enjoyable if you focus on listening to your fellow networkers, rather than simply going in to blurt out your own story or sales pitch. You don’t need to be an overt salesperson or be pushy – simply be yourself.
The skills that make you successful in your business can naturally be used to make you a good and confident networker. Another great tip is to look to help people you meet and offer advice or guidance, whether that means imparting professional wisdom or recommending the right person for the job.