“The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work. Marinate on that for a minute.” – Robert T. Kiyosaki
Networking is one of the most valuable tools a company can have. Connecting with others and building relationships are crucial skills to growing a business.
As simple as it sounds, networking can be difficult for many individuals and companies. After all, it’s hard to have enough confidence to walk up to complete strangers and introduce yourself, while also taking an active interest in them. However, there are steps you can take, ahead of time, to turn an ordinary meet-and- greet into a tangible business meeting, which will hopefully, lead to a prosperous client relationship in the near future.
Regardless of the event, mapping out your pre-during and post-event networking plan is critical to how effective your ability to network is. Here are some helpful tips to remember as you formulate your plan:
- Do your homework. Research those who will be attending the event. You may be surprised, but many times if you ask for the list of those invited, you may end up getting it. Once you have a list, identify those companies you would like to engage. Find out as much information as you can about the attendees, such as industry news and trends, and various networks in which they may be involved. Based on your research, you can then decide the best conversation to lead with and what questions to ask.
- Know your elevator speech. What will you tell the prospect that will resonate with them? Are there hot button issues that will lead them to do business with your company? It is important that they understand who you are and what you do, but what they will remember is how you can help them, how you can help grow their company and increase their revenue.
- Contact information. A networking event is not the time for handing out brochures or other information about your company; these should be used as a follow-up after the networking event. Do bring plenty of business cards and have them ready to hand out.
- Dress. Be respectful to those attending the event. Slightly overdressing is always better than being underdressed. Make sure that your attire is suitable for the occasion. Like it or not, people size you up in 3-5 seconds. Your appearance and manners go a long way towards the impression you make and how people remember you. First impressions are lasting impressions.
- Follow-up. As a best practice, always connect with prospects you meet on the same day. LinkedIn and Twitter are two important business/social media platforms used to connect with a new prospect. Make notes. What was discussed during your various conversations? Make a diary of what each discussion entailed regarding business, as well as any personal likes, such as football or baseball teams.
- Personalize. Lastly, write a hand-written letter to those prospects with whom you made a connection. Nothing is as deliberately personal as a handwritten letter; no email or text will ever come across as endearing.
Getting to know the prospect as in-depth as possible, in the beginning of the relationship, makes for a stronger working relationship down the road.