When I first started my consulting business, I dreaded going to networking events. I was young, new to the consulting world and a recent transplant in a very big city. At that point in my life, I was unaware of how to successfully network. As I’ve matured, I’ve learned that it’s not really as hard as we think.
Here are some tips for newcomers… or reminders for those of us who forget some of the details.
- Target, target, target. Just like any marketing endeavor, don’t assume a one-size-fits-all approach. Learn about the different networking groups in your area and see which few will work best for your company. Maybe the group focuses on specific location based businesses. Certain networking groups meet more often then others. Sometimes networking groups target a shared customer base. Some are more social and others more results oriented. Pick the ones that work for you and fit your company’s needs. Use social media to help you find different groups.
- Set goals and measure success. Decide up-front what you want to accomplish and give yourself an appropriate time frame for success. Some networking groups will be more successful than others. In the long run, dump the groups that waste your time.
- What’s in it for you? No, please do not take that approach. It drives me crazy when a new person walks up to me, introduces themselves and immediately tries to “sell” me on their product or service. Instead, be the connector. When you meet someone, think to yourself, “who do I know that could use their service?” That will totally change the dynamics of the conversation. You will find yourself asking questions about their company that they might not typically divulge themselves. And, if you are impressed with them and know of someone who could use their services, by all means, get the 2 of them together.
The reason I suggest these tips is because networking is about relationships. You need to put yourself in the right environment for relationships. You need to decide what you want out of the relationships. And most importantly, you can’t have a relationship if you only care about yourself.
In any good relationship, people listen to each other and help as needed. Networking is no different. Over time, you will get the reputation as someone who is a connector. You will build your reputation as a trustworthy individual and people will WANT to do business or send business to you.