Networking is such an important professional skill – how do you feel you are doing? Are you able to meet face to face yet or maximising the opportunities afforded by online meetings? There seems to be a view that the pandemic is easing somewhat, but whatever the reality there has been a huge cost in terms of health, family and business. Maybe you will be able to implement some of the strategies outlined in our first two articles. This is the third and final article. If you missed the last one in which we looked at the importance of developing relationships and strategies for when you attend events or host them yourself. To see this article, look here.
In this final article we will take a further look at seminar networking and then wrap up with 10 Networking Tips.
I have a client, Robert, a sole practitioner who I have consulted with for over 20 years. In the first couple of years, we met annually. I always asked this question – “Robert, what is your specialism? I might also have phrased the question, “What is your claim to fame?” On each occasion he replied that he did not have one. On the third occasion, I think he was well prepared. He told me that in analysing his client’s tax returns he discovered that 40 per cent of them included income from property. He had therefore decided to develop a seminar on property taxation.
His first seminar was held at the local golf club and was oversubscribed with 30 attendees including clients and a good number of Robert’s professional colleagues including bankers, lawyers, and real estate agents. Robert marketed the event and again this was oversubscribed. When I heard that he was running this event again I decided to attend. He had prepared a 30-page manual and I listened enthralled as he shared his wisdom and insights. He held this event annually for 10 years and saw his business double in size with an even larger proportion of property clients. He broke my rule of 6 referrals and was able to so as he developed his expertise in this very specific area of specialisation. He was, without question, the go to person for property tax. His fame spread throughout the county of Surrey in the South East of England.
MY FINAL TEN NETWORKING TIPS
As we come in for a course landing, allow me to share in summary 10 tips for effective networking marketing.
1 Quantity is a turn off
If you hand out business cards like you’re dealing poker, most people will recognise what you are doing and give you a pass. “People don’t want to do business with what I call a card thruster”
2 Don’t try and work the room
If you’re always on the lookout for the next professional connection, there will be those who will look on with a modicum of disregard. “If you spend time looking over people’s shoulders, they will recognise that you are not that interested in them.
3 Make your case for building a relationship
After you have established your personal connection how might you be able to help the person you are talking to? BNI refer to this as Givers Gain. Giving because you desire to work together. Giving because you wish to give back. And giving because the Bible tells it like this, “It is more blessed to give than receive”.
4 Exchange stories
Networking includes telling our story, describing your human competitive advantage – what you do that nobody else can do. Also, importantly be prepared to ask a new contact to tell you, their story. At the start of any new relationship, it is key to ask questions to obtain an understanding of the other person and to gain unique pieces of information.
5 Be prepared to respond to the other’s challenges
There’s no better way to establish a business networking relationship than to contribute to the solution of your new contact’s pressing problem. “If someone states a challenge that they’re facing, respond—no later than the next morning—with something of value that addresses their issue.
6 Establish the next contact
If you sense that your new contact will be able to add value to you, look at building a bridge to your next exchange before you bid them farewell. You may have a good memory. I always make notes on my phone to remind me of what I have agreed to do. Sometimes the follow up is a meeting but it could also be an email or sending a link to a webpage.
7 Don’t overlook social media
Social media is a powerful tool when used judiciously. But spam is distasteful and unwelcome no matter. Ask permission to add someone onto your mail list. Be selective, and use virtual contacts to supplement, not supplant, face-to-face meetings. Social networking is deeply reinforced by an in-person connection.
8 Active listening
Another important networking skill is active listening. To get people excited about your business and what you’re sharing with them, you need to listen to and understand their needs. Active listening involves maintaining eye contact, nodding your head to show you understand what they’re saying and responding appropriately, smiling as a sign of encouragement and to demonstrate your understanding of points made. Active listening also ensures you’re able to ask the right questions to keep a conversation moving forward.
9 Be positive
A positive attitude is another important networking skill, as others are drawn to those with a friendly, positive demeanour. Positivity can help you develop a strong rapport with others quickly and, in general, help you to be more instantly likable and memorable.
10 Ask good questions
Asking the right questions helps to build trust and confidence and extends the conversation into a meaningful exchange. Keep your questions positive and focused on the conversation you are discussing. Be prepared to ask questions and share with others about life beyond what happens at the office.
And finally…Gaining confidence and improving how you play the Referral Game
As with anything that requires skill, the more you network, the better at it (or at least the more comfortable with it) you’ll be. I think we have covered sufficient ground to enable you to add in a few skills to those you already have. Enjoy making more referrals and gaining more business.