by Francis Newman.
I often hear this statement from people I haven’t seen at networking events for a while. They want to meet new people, but won’t spend the time nurturing their existing relationships. So they perpetuate the problem of always having to find new people. Nothing wrong in meeting new people as long as you’re building relationships with the people you already know.
Networking events provide good opportunities to stay in touch with people you already know and learn more about them and their work.
Networking – the power of reputation by word of mouth
I realised the power of word of mouth when I acquired a new client via someone I didn’t know. They recommended me on the basis of what they heard from one of their clients. This roundabout referral led to quite a bit of business and taught me the power of indirect recommendations.
I learned that if I had enough people speaking favourably about my work, then I’d have a powerful referral tool that cost only my time.
Tips to improve your networking
Sincerity – the foundation of credibility
How many times have people said to you, ‘let me know if I can help you.’ When you contact them and ask for their help you don’t get a reply or they don’t return your call. How many times have you offered help and really meant it? I recently connected with a guy on LinkedIn who went out of his way to say he ‘really’ expected me to take him up on his offer of help.
Think again before you offer help. Ask yourself, do I really mean it?
If not, then don’t offer it. Throw-away niceties might sound good at networking events, but they’ll eventually damage your credibility.
Why not find out how you can help them by getting to know them. Invite them out for coffee.
Networking – opportunities to learn not sell
How many times did you go to a networking event to buy a service or product? If you didn’t go to buy then why would you expect others to buy from you? Stop trying to sell and start learning about other people’s businesses. Ask questions, find out what they need in terms of contacts, information, exhibitions and events. Follow up with coffee meetings every 4-6 weeks.
You don’t have to talk shop
People sometimes feel they’re wasting their time if they’re not talking business or promoting their services, but there’s much to be gained by listening to people’s concerns whether business or personal.
Describe results of your work rather than activities
If you’re a business coach, then describe how you’ve helped people improve their business rather than saying you run NLP workshops and offer one-to-one coaching sessions tailored to their needs.
Smiling shouldn’t be underestimated, but it must be a ‘real’ smile. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a smile is worth a thousand pictures.
Be a giver not a taker
Investing in people is probably the best investment you’re likely to make. Meet regularly with people in your network.
Keep a library of useful ebooks, articles and websites that might help them. You don’t have to make a big thing about it. I frequently send relevant information to people and always get positive feedback.
Sure, you will attract networking vampires who’ll try to suck your energy and generosity, but you’ll soon spot them coming and quickly avoid them.
There’s a wonderful book you can buy on Amazon for about £6 called the Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann. I recommend you read it and put the ideas into practice.
Things to avoid doing:
- Don’t automatically add people to your newsletter mailing list.
This is very irritating and can work against you.
Always ask first. Send them an email and invite them to subscribe to your newsletter. Many newsletters are just glorified sale letters.
- Don’t mail people about your life-changing workshops unless they’ve expressed an interest or asked for details.
- Don’t shove business cards into people’s hands asking them to call you if they need help. Chances are, they’ll bin your card and won’t call you. Offer your card if the chemistry is right and you both decide to stay in touch or meet again for coffee.
Finding the right people
To a large extent, you’ll discover you naturally attract people who are right for you. Forget about trying to profile prospective clients and identifying the right networking events as though they were a mailing list.
Instead, listen to feedback from experienced networkers and try out new events. Look for people you like who are well-connected.
People who enjoy business and meet plenty of people are more likely to think of you or refer you to people they meet.
Remember it won’t happen unless you make the effort to stay in touch.
Meeting for coffee is a great way to do this
Kick-start your networking now
So when you’re next invited to a networking event, think again about the power of meeting the same people. You’ll discover the more you do this the more people will associate you with your service – and as a valued friend.
Francis ran the Pitstop riverside networking club in Chiswick for over three years.
© Copyright Francis Newman 2012. All rights reserved.