10 Tips to Make the Most of Your Networking
One of the most common business problems new clients joining the Rhythm Systems family are hoping to overcome is how to grow their businesses with purpose. All of the companies we work with are tirelessly looking for their next growth strategy, their next Winning Move. One area that I have noticed provides the quickest ROI is RON (Return on Networking).
Over the decades I have spent in business, I have found that the best customers to have - by far - are the customers we gained through effective networking. The entire organization should always be on the lookout for potential partners, and perhaps even more importantly be looking for customers for your customers as nothing gets a networking relationship going faster than bringing them business first!
You and all your employees are meeting customers and potential customers on an almost daily basis. Do they have the tools to network effectively? Do they know how to talk about core business competencies comfortably without being too salesy? Do they notice when a potential customer is in the room, or do they even know what your core customer looks like? In order to help our customers with this problem, I decided to rely on my network and reached out to Terry Bean, one of the foremost experts on business networking.
Terry is so qualified, he literally wrote the book on the subject! Terry is the author of Be Connected, which is an indispensable handbook on how to network effectively while staying true to yourself. You can receive a free sample of the book at his website http://about.me/terrybean. Terry is also a key contributor and on the board of directors of TEDx Detroit, a premier learning and networking event in Michigan. I asked him to give us ten good tips on networking so that the readers of our blog could get a head start on the competition!
By Terry Bean: I’ve been coaching/training people on being better at networking for almost 10 years. It dawned on me that perhaps I’ve been looking at it the wrong way. Maybe instead of helping people be better, maybe I should suggest ways they can simply suck less. To that end, here you go…
- Must be present to win. I’ve talked about the #1 rule of networking is you have to “show up.” You know what? It’s not enough to show up. You have to be present. And I mean fully present. Not thinking about what’s for lunch or what’s on TV tonight. Put your phone down and pay attention. Opportunities to refer and to be referred happen quickly at networking events. If you’re not present, you will miss them.
- Stop bringing “enough cards for everyone.” Look at your desk (or your nightstand or your old shoe box or wherever you stash these things) and count how many cards you haven’t done a thing with. Go ahead. I’ll wait. You done? Right…not even close, BUB. Here’s the trick, you don’t need to give your card to everyone you meet. You know why? Because not everyone you meet wants it and even less people need it. And that’s okay. Cards should be passed out and collected sparingly. Speaking of cards…
- Ask people for their cards. No. Not everyone. Only the people with whom you want to build a relationship. Here’s the logic. When you pass them your card, you have to wait for them to call you. When you get their card, you can control the follow up.
- Don’t just talk with people you already know. Networking is about meeting new people as much as it’s about reconnecting with folks you know. You have to have a balance. Make it a point to meet 3-5 new people at every event you attend. That’s 3-5, not 30-50. It’s easier to meet new people at a networking event when you’re not worried about meeting everyone…trust me.
- Introduce people. Since people are there to meet people, be of service and make some introductions. You don’t have to hold onto your contacts like they’re a Derek Jeter rookie card. Share them. Every once in a while you’ll make a very valuable connection, and these two people will both be on the lookout for ways to help you.
- Stop selling us. Seriously. People go to networking events to network. This is very different than a sales meeting. You may get lucky and meet someone who has a need for your offering. Be cool. Setup a time to meet with them outside of the event. Who knows, the next person either of you meet may need those services, too. Don’t miss that opportunity by staying in that conversation.
- Talk less. Listen more. I’ve long said, “I’ve never learned anything new with my mouth open.” You already know what you do and what good opportunities are for you. To be effective in networking, you need to learn how to help those in your network. You can’t do that if you’re too busy flapping your gums.
- Spend more time on the WHY and less on the WHAT. Most people at a networking event know what a loan officer does. Same is true for an accountant, an attorney and a financial planner. Spend 3 seconds telling us what you do and the rest of the time telling us why you do it. That’s where passion lives. And passion is what engages people. You should also tell us for whom you do it.
- Have a purpose. Know why you’re going to these events in the first place. Make sure you’re consistent with it. Far too often people want to tell you about their business, their other business, the non-profit they support and sometimes just some silly stuff. Pick one thing and focus on it.
- Follow up. This is more of an “after the event” thing, but it’s so important. If you tell someone you’re going to follow up with them, do it. Write this down somewhere: DWYSYWD- Do What You Said You Would Do. Be impeccable with your word. If you don’t intend to follow up with someone, don’t tell them you will. It’s that easy.
Follow these 10 rules and not only will you have a better networking experience, so will the people with whom you’re networking.
What ideas would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.