Good sales come from effective marketing. Effective marketing, means being in the same place as your customer, so that they can see you. If you sell to businesses, then one of the places that your customer may well be is at networking events. That means you need to become an effective networker.
Networking is something that I’ve often heard women say that they hate, which is odd, because women are the very best networkers in the world! We often recommend things that we’ve tried, we are positive about someone’s product or service, we speak highly of a new restaurant or film; that’s networking at it’s finest.
What we think we hate is formal networking. The purpose of this blog post is to show you, quite clearly, that formal networking, done well, is comfortable and can be very profitable.
People Buy People
If there are two shops selling identical stuff, we’ll buy from the one with the nicest shopkeeper. It’s a no-brainer. So it is with our businesses. Unless you do something unique it’s you that your customers are buying, not your product or service.
Take bookkeeping for example.
There are bookkeepers all over the place and if you wanted to find one, you could either ask for recommendations or you could do some research. Whichever way you go about it, you’d end up, ultimately, with the one you like the most. My bookkeeper is an absolute star! There are dozens of bookkeepers in Cumbria and I chose mine because I really like her.
So What About Networking?
Formal networking events work really well if you have a clear idea of what you want to gain from them. What you absolutely do not want to have as your aim is a sale. The worst experience you can have at a networking event is when someone is trying to sell you something right there, at the event.
Networking absolutely isn’t about selling, it’s about building relationships. It goes back to that people buying people thing.
Networking is a virtuous circle. What I mean is that meeting people can lead to business opportunities, which leads to meeting more people, which can in turn lead to more business opportunities.
How To Be A Great Networker
Listen. At networking events, you get the opportunity to chat to many other business owners. Listen to them. Be interested in what they do. Everyone loves someone who is interested in what they do. Take a card from everyone you want to talk to about your business, but don’t do it there and then other than the briefest outline. Rather, tell the person concerned that you’ll give them a call in the week and organise a meeting over a coffee (or whatever’s appropriate for you). Obviously, you don’t want to come across as peculiarly mysterious about your business, but try to make your conversations all about the other person and find out how you can help them. Who is their customer? If you like them and you know someone who may need their services, you will be in a position to help both parties.
You will always be advised to have plenty of business cards with you at networking events, but don’t make not having a business card a reason not to attend. I know of a very successful chap who never has his own business card with him. When asked for a card, he’ll say ‘oh sorry, I forgot them. Let me have one of yours and I’ll give you a call’. Clever huh?
The other great networking ‘must’ is follow-up. Very few people follow up on meetings and conversations. By follow up, I mean drop the person an email, saying how nice it was to meet them. That’s it. Nothing fancy or pushy, just a thank you. People will remember you because of it.
Relax! If you just breathe and stop focusing on you and how you feel, and instead focus on other people and finding out about them. Once you stop being anxious and relax, you may actually find that networking is both interesting and enjoyable.
Positive Outcomes From Networking
There are several things which you may want to have as your positive outcome(the thing you want to gain) from a networking event. Here are a few suggestions:
- Widen your circle of contacts
- Find someone in a specific industry
- Book X meetings for the next week, outside of the event. X = whatever number you wish to insert. Keep it a low number though, because if you whizz around a room booking coffee dates with everyone, people will start avoiding you!
- Start to become known as the ‘woman who…..’ I’m the woman who teaches other women to sell.
All in all, networking isn’t a place to sell, it’s a place to meet people. People buy people that they know, like and trust and you can start that particular ball rolling by networking.