Many of today’s aspirant business executives are growing up with social media and e-communications tools as the standards for business networking and building business relationships. Whilst highly efficient for certain purposes, this technology is nonetheless diluting the interpersonal skills both ladies and gentlemen must have to engage clients, prospects, stakeholders and social society, effectively.
Like anything else, business networking is a skill that can be taught and one that can be learned. In the heyday of his activity John D Rockerfeller, often referred to as the richest man in history, said: ‘the ability to deal with people is a purchasable commodity, as coffee or sugar… and I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun.’
Here are my top three tips to help you build a foundation for networking success.
Know what you are doing.
Most people do not have a clear understanding of their role when they are in business networking environments. Unless you are clear on this how will you know whether you have been successful?
Networking is about building relationships; helping others as a way to grow your business.; building the relationships that will increase your referral income and uncovering the pain in others’ businesses that your products or services can help with. Once you accept that nobody will ever buy from you on your first meeting, you’ll avoid the cardinal sin of trying to sell your products and services. Just sell yourself and be a great ambassador for the brand you represent. People do business with people they like and that are like them. What actions do you take to get people to like you? Is it working?
Put a value on your networking. What is the transaction value, annual value and lifetime value of a new client, to you? When you can visualise this figure you’ll treat your planning and preparation with the same respect you do for the other processes within your business. You’ll give it the respect and time it deserves. Who is on the guest list that you would like to meet? Who is the host and what is the purpose of the event? What time will you arrive? Have you crafted a compelling elevator pitch to position your role and your services as colourful? What questions will you ask to qualify the status of those you will meet? What is your goal in attending? What questions will you ask to find the change and challenges your conversation partner is facing in their business that will represent a future opportunity to help them? These are just a few things to consider before you walk in to a business networking event. Are you ready?
Once we accept that no-one buys at business networking events, we realise that the follow-up is essential to achieving a return on your time-investment in networking. Once an opportunity has been identified at the event, this is the first step towards converting it into a sale.
Interestingly, however, making the follow-up call to a contact, particularly where a new relationship has been forged, is not as easy as it sounds. For many, following up fills them with dread. Fears of rejection bubble to the surface, and frequently, left to their own choice, people fail to follow up on new contacts. They busy themselves with other tasks to avoid making that call. They do this so that either someone else does it instead of them, or the time for action passes.
Be brave. Overcome your concerns and always schedule that time, the morning after networking events, to follow up with those you have met. How else will you be able to take your relationship to the next level?
With these top three tips…. our journey towards impeccable networking has begun!