Networking for Newbies
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You understand the benefits to professional networking. Maybe you?ve seen the process in action or know someone who really understands how to connect with people? You probably already have some groups or events in mind. The hesitation for many new people when it comes to networking is the social anxiety related to entering a room full of strangers and attempting to make an impact. Here are some ways to minimize the fear of networking and get started off on the right foot.
The primary reason networking feels awkward is because you aren?t accustomed to it. You have to practice ?networking?. If you walk into the room with no direction or goal, then don?t be surprised if you leave empty handed.
Here are some questions you need to have answered before you get there? or be prepared to respond to once you are there.
- What is your primary goal? Why are you networking? Are you looking to meet clients or build relationships?
- If the answer is: ?I want to get clients!? then you may need to re-think networking.
- Your answer should be: I want to meet people to build relationships, connect with power partners, and meet others to mutually support both our businesses.
- Who are your ideal clients?
- If you can?t answer this question, then people can?t help introduce you to the ?right? people.
- Your answer should be: ?I am clear on who I am trying to reach, if you know people in need of _________, I would welcome an introduction. Thank You!? (or something along those lines!)
- Do you have an elevator pitch prepared? Can you explain what you do in 60 seconds or less (preferably less!)? Can you make it interesting?
- Do you have any shared connections with other people in the room? That?s an easy icebreaker right there.
- Do you have business cards available? If you don?t, you should. Having a website for connections to look at afterwards is extremely beneficial as well.
First, relax. It?s just a room full of people. What is the worst that can happen? You walk out without any leads? Big deal, you didn?t have any walking in, did you? It?s not the end of the world. So, take a breath, smile, and say hello to people. Remember, everyone is there with the intention of meeting and speaking to other professionals in the room.
Confidence is key! Don?t try too hard. Be yourself. You don?t need index cards with funny jokes or notes. There is no need to be pushy. No one likes an overly aggressive sales pitch or technique. Trust me, if you are there to ?sell? & ?push? your product people will move on & find someone else to ?connect? with. Be authentic and true to your particular passions. People can sense when you are being insincere. Be sincere, people will appreciate you for it.
Networking Tip: You can even tell people??This is my first (or third) networking event?. If they are seasoned networkers, they may take you under their wing & introduce you to everyone they know.
Be sure to talk about what you do, but make certain you are listening more than talking. Remember, we have two ears & one mouth use them proportionately. They will get around to asking what you do and asking you questions. If there is a lull in conversation, ask questions. Keep asking questions, if you feel like the lead is a good one. The more you keep them talking, the more you establish trust.
- Are you from here?
- No, where are you from?
- How long have you lived here?
- Do you have kids?
- Where did you go to college?
- What are your hobbies?
Be transparent and honest. If you are vague or withhold details, people will think you are hiding something. Maybe you haven?t gotten a chance to complete a project yet ? be up front about it.
As a busy business owner, it is going to be easy to forget to follow up with the contacts you have made. This is just wasted time and energy. Have a plan for following up. Make those phone calls. Get those business cards entered into a database and be sure to add them to any email or newsletter lists you maintain. Connect with them on their social media. It?s likely they will reciprocate.
Another great way to follow up on leads is to come up with a creative way to collaborate. A mutually beneficial situation will transition a connection into a business relationship. Even if a lead doesn?t utilize your products or services, they will be more inclined to refer you to others.
The important thing to remember is networking can be fun and rewarding. With a bit of prep work and a confident attitude, waves can be made in your business.
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