4 Basic Tips for Better Networking Results

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About the Author - Alexander Helgar

How many times have you heard that you must network to grow your business? I’d venture to guess the answer is, “a lot.” But what is networking, really? Basically, it’s the art of connecting with others. Pretty straightforward, right? But it's not as easy as it sounds.

We all go to networking events with different goals in mind. Some attendees want to meet new referral partners, some want to raise awareness for their cause, and others just want to stay current with the business community in Garland. When implemented correctly, all these goals can be crucial to your business success and growth in a networking session. It should also be said that it is OK to be nervous and feel out of place. You will gain comfortability soon enough, and I’ve got a few easy steps that will get you there faster.

Let’s start with the basics.

  1. Show up Early
    Some of your best networking opportunities happen before the event ever starts. This early-bird access, after the doors open and before the event kicks off, can lead to longer conversations with the people you need to access than what you might get at the event itself. This is also an important step if you are nervous. Showing up early gives you the chance to get settled in the space, connect with the staff, and introduce yourself to the other early risers. Networking pros are usually the among the first to arrive, so they can help you dive right in and give you pointers on whom you should meet. We also need to point this out: Don’t only mingle with the group of people you know! We are creatures of habit and tend to find our own circle at these events but try to push yourself to meet at least five new individuals.

  2. Smile, Make Eye Contact, and Extend Your Hand
    Building a relationship is a lot like building a house. You’ve got to pour the foundation before you can start on the frame, walls, and roof. A poorly made foundation will be a headache for many years to come. Similarly, the first time you meet someone, you are pouring your foundation. Take advantage of this opportunity to cover the fundamentals; smile, make eye contact and shake their hand. Simple, but so effective.

  3. Have Your Business Cards Ready
    I did tell you that I would start with the basics, so don’t be shocked to read this one! A business card serves as a great reminder of whom we met, and who they are. We typically see and hear from more than 20 fellow attendees at networking events, and no one can recall every conversation they had. Think of your business card as a hook to hang information on. It will remind the others of who you were.

  4. Know What, Who, and Why
    This is the dreaded elevator pitch everyone talks about. What do you do? Who do you do it for? And why should someone else be interested? You should always be prepared to answer these three simple questions about your product or services. We use this pitch at networking events for a reason. If you can be specific in your pitch, your fellow attendees will quickly be able to determine if there’s a potential fit for them as a client, vendor or referral partner. Be careful to listen to other people’s pitches as well as they’ll help qualify who to follow up with. Instead of following up with every single attendee, you will remember who caught your attention, and pursue a handful.

Elevate Your Experience

Now that you know the basics to networking, you should be thinking about elevating your experience and take part in the bigger picture. Let’s first start off with the biggest misconception…

Have you ever heard someone tell you that networking is a waste of time and that it doesn’t work? Networking takes time out of your day and away from your desk, so very often we go into these events with the wrong set of ideas and goals in mind. In a room full of businesses, we often assume that everyone in the room is a prospect. Why else would you attend an event and not cold call in your office? This is the biggest misconception about networking and probably the reason why so many professionals are unsuccessful at it. We don’t see the potential in who the other attendees know and how easily they might be able to connect us with our top prospects. So, how can you ensure that this does not happen to you?

Spend more time with the other attendees and ask open ended questions. Think about how you can help them with their goals, and then be sure follow up after the event. These are simple things you can do to make sure you are actually connecting with the others in attendance. You have to invest energy and time into making these relationships grow, as this will ultimately help you build mutual trust. The potential benefit of creating these deep relationships will help you find more business opportunities, potential partnerships, and professional growth. I have already written a piece about the power of a referral network, and I would recommend it for a deeper dive into generating referrals (read more here: http://www.garlandchamber.com/news/how-to-generate-referrals.html).

The last thing I want to touch on is frequency. Networking does not need to take up all your time and there’s no need to attend a networking event every day. The more events you attend, the bigger responsibility you have in terms of following up with the attendees you met. Follow up is key, as this will help you build that trust that will elevate your relationships. Networking should happen on a regular basis though, because there are always new people and opportunities at these events. A bonus to attending regular networking events is that they can serve as a reminder for your network, and it might remind them of a potential client they really wanted to discuss with you.

That’s it! Networking is easy to get into but will just require a little practice to master. The most important lesson is to always be open-minded and look for opportunities to collaborate with other professionals.

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