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As a business owner or someone working in sales, your main challenge is likely going to be effective networking. If you are like most people, every event is an opportunity to network!
You need to be able to work with people, to mingle with new minds and to work together in the right manner. You never know who is who in someone else’s network – you want to get access to their network too. That takes a lot of work and no small amount of planning, however. While most of us see networking events as an excuse to have a few drinks and shake some hands, there’s far more to networking than this.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Always come prepared – you should never turn up to a networking event without prep for things like leaflets, business cards and even a little set of pin badges with the company insignia.
- Come with a clear pitch that you will use to sell yourself to the room. Make between 2-3 clear points in a short introduction and make it easy to understand your message; avoid trying to turn it into a stand-up routine or a sales pitch, though! Your 30-second elevator pitch should include identifying; problems, solutions, and proof.
- Listen to what people are saying, too. Avoid being the person who just talks over everyone else. Sometimes, the greatest tool you have is the ability to just nod your way through the discussion and let them feel like they are in control. Be curious!
- Don’t expect to hit the sale on the night. Many people make the mistake of turning up to a big networking event and expecting to leave with contracts signed. If you leave with a contact number and an agreement to speak later, that’s a great start.
- Don’t just refer yourself; refer others. If you hear someone talking about something they need help with and you know of someone who could help them out, make the recommendation. Share information that might not benefit you today, but shows you aren’t just self-absorbed or self-interested. Instead, look for opportunities to connect them with someone in your network.
Stick to the above, and you might find those big networking events a little less daunting!
Seizing the Opportunity
Also, never lose sight of the ability to turn just about any kind of event into a networking event. Holding a new opening of a store? Get people around to enjoy the big opening and mingle with other business owners. Festive sale? Charity event? Sponsored event? Just about any kind of business interaction could be turned into a networking event if you are ready to put in the work and effort.
Of course, it’s hard to get it right every time, but never turn down the opportunity to turn a ‘normal’ event into a networking opportunity.
Taking Back Control
One of the major mistakes we see people make when they take on a networking event, though, is not taking control. When you talk to someone, most business owners or networkers try and talk all the time. They see it as their opportunity to sell themselves, and treat it like a mini-interview; all pre-prepared answers and scripts.
Instead, you want to spend more time looking at actually asking questions instead of waiting to answer questions. Why?
Put simply, the person who asks the questions has the power. You are grabbing the bull by the horns and making sure that you can be heard and understood as clearly as possible. If you are the one that asks the questions, then you are the one directing the conversation.
It also allows you to better manage topics and just make the whole experience in general much easier for you to manage. If you want to be better at networking, you need to also be better at allowing the person to talk themselves into seeing you as the solution! Remember, a deeper connection can only happen when people feel we are genuinely interested in them and what they have to offer.
Better Networking Anywhere
Make sure that you start off by working on your introduction. When you get an opportunity to network, grasp it with both hands and really use that opportunity to put yourself in control of the situation.
Always maintain eye contact as often as you can. Selling with our eyes is a powerful skill and one that you can easily use to take control of any networking opportunity. When you find yourself in a random networking opportunity, keeping eye contact can help show you are engaged and never caught off guard.
Listen to their responses. When someone is talking to you, don’t be sitting there trying to come up with a response already. Listen closely to what they have to say. When you are trying to come up with that sales pitch in your head, you might miss out on the key part of the conversation that was your ‘in’!
Always ask questions. The best thing that you can do, as we mentioned above, is make sure that they are willing to divulge information. The more you learn from the now in this impromptu networking opportunity, the more you’ll learn in the long-term.
A networking event is not designed for you to connect with everyone. Being able to walk out having made at least one or two meaningful connections is more than most will get from the networking event. This is where quality verses quantity is your guide post (rule of thumb).
One formula we believe is absolutely essential if you are looking to really capture the art of high performance networking is known as PSP; Problems, Solutions and Proof. This is very important, as it means that every networking opportunity will give you the chance to:
- Discuss the problems that they are facing at this moment in time. This is a prime moment to learn why they might be in need of the kind of help that you can provide. Ask, “what problems do you feel your ideal customer is facing?”
- Offer a solution to the problem they face. If you hear their problem and it’s something that your business can help them fix, you should offer to do so. Otherwise, recommend someone who you know could help them out. Ask, “how do you intend on solving some of those problems for your ideal client?” or say, “the solution I have that can solve that problem is…”
- Lastly, offer them proof of a time when you helped out someone in this same way before. When you offer them help, they’ll likely be skeptical of your ability to help. This makes it easy for them to believe you, as you are telling them when you helped someone out in a similar scenario before. Ask, “what is an example of when you delivered that solution to another customer?” or say, “in fact, I have a customer now that I…”
These simple steps will indeed be very powerful to improving your networking playbook, and will go a long way to help you make the right calls with regards to maximizing your networking opportunities. While it’s always tough to network, putting the above ideas into action should make it so much easier to network with accuracy and efficiency in the long-term.
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About the author: Kyle Kalloo is the Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operations Officer, and Executive and Business Coach with Change My Life Coaching and Change My Business Coaching. With 25 plus years of experience in senior management positions, Kyle has established a robust record in strategic positioning and brand management, operations restructuring, feasibility assessments, change management, people engagement, and executive development. Also, he is the recipient of awards for Innovation and Improvement in previous roles. http://www.changemylifecoaching.ca https://www.changemybusinesscoaching.ca