Business Networking Tips – A Guide
Networking is a key business activity for owner/managers/and sales people. It is a way to connect with people like yourself, running a business, looking for more clients. They may be able to connect you with your target market or potential clients. Or they could supply you with a good service or service provider, who may or may not be attending on the day.
And yes, I do appreciate, that most people hate the idea of attending most networking events, offline or online.
Perhaps we can make it easier for you to do or show you some of the benefits.
Below we list some tips – read on:
20+ tips on Networking itself and also
30+ tips on Reciprocity, plus another
10+ benefits of business Networks.
Business Networking is a very cost effective word of mouth marketing exercise to discover or develop sales opportunities or contacts.
The best, easiest, low cost option is your local Chamber of Commerce – join and attend functions, meetings, etc to get to know the other members and get introductions to your target market. Talk to the Chamber Manager, ask for advice, tell him/her what you are looking to do. Ask for help – it might surprise you how much people do want to be of assistance.
Furthermore, if you join a structured Business Network like Women in Business or BNI or any local business network such as DBN Donegal Business Network, they are based on giving and receiving referrals and introductions. These monthly or weekly meetings are there to get people together and have them focus on helping each other, in a structured fashion. Online for most of 2021, we are starting to see more physical meetings again in late 2022. The main meeting just allows you meet people at a fairly superficial level, to find out who they are, what they do, where they do it and who they want as customers.
Between the main meetings, members can also arrange 1 to 1 face-to-face meetings or Zoom calls to get to know each other better. This is where you really get to know each other and find out how you can help each other.
Get to know, like and trust fellow members, in order to be able to spot an opportunity or refer them. Tell fellow members who you want to meet and why. Why should they trust you with their personal connections?
Tell them or show them what you do and why you are good at it.
Your business network of contacts is often referred to your business net worth, as it is a route to market and a valuable marketing tool, to get to the decision makers in your target client companies.
Business Networking Tips
- Pick the right network – One that suits your specific business goals.
- Be on time – Get relaxed with the venue and the room and be there to greet others as if you are a host – do smile.
- Dress comfortably – Smart & clean, no odours, no tobacco or alcohol smells – even when you are online in front of a camera
- Mingle – Talk to other attendees, at every opportunity, even if, especially if, you are uncomfortable starting off
- Breathe – It may be obvious, but remember to take deep breaths, it is easy to forget
- Ask questions – Pay attention and LISTEN, really listen. Push yourself to hear and understand exactly what is being said, so that you can spot opportunities.
- Silence – If the conversation stops, ask more questions of the person, be prepared initially with some general questions, like why did you choose your profession, what gives you most satisfaction, how do you differ from your competitors, how do you market your services, how does Networking help, who do you want to meet, who makes a good client for you etc
- Sales – Do not be Salesy, be helpful, if asked, explain how you can help your own clients, exactly how you add value
- Triggers – Look out for opportunities to connect people, even in the room or Zoom – make it a game, a challenge, try to bring business to someone at the actual event or connect some people to each other
- Be real – Forget all the sales book baloney, be yourself always, (unless you are normally a pain). The more real you are, the higher the chance you will get the right leads for you. Wearing a mask, will normally wear you out. Poor pun in 2022.
- Refer business – If you can get some business for someone, they will want to get business for you. It is called ‘reciprocity’ and is a natural reaction.
- 60 Seconds or Elevator pitch – If you get the chance, say who you are, what you do or offer, who do you want to meet and why should someone recommend you. Imagine being single and going to a party, where the evening starts off with everyone introducing themselves and saying who they want to meet. Listen carefully!
- Stand out – Infuse some energy, be memorable, fun, educational, clear and concise
- Be specific – Name the person you want to meet and say why – how will you be of value to that person if you are introduced.
- Shotgun – Do not run around giving away business cards, thinking that this is networking – leave the cards at home or offer one when requested. It is much better for you to collect cards than to give them. The same goes for Zoom calls, do not blast emails out to ‘all attendees’.
- Prepare – Plan who you want to talk to at any Networking event and have a goal for that meeting. Can you get an Attendees List in advance or read the sign in book later or ideally on arrival
- Be positive – Add positivity to the energy and NEVER criticise others
- Farm NOT Hunt – Look to bring benefit, sow seed like a Farmer, rather than be an out and out Hunter
- Follow up – Follow up quickly to arrange meetings or referrals, send the info you promised to send. Make the introduction that you promised to do.
- Evaluate – Review how each meeting went, did you achieve what you set out to do ? How could you have done better? Did you invest enough of you to get the results you wanted
- Personal Net worth – Do you stay connected with your existing Network, clients, past clients, friends etc – This is a warm audience, so do stay connected
- GOOTO – Get out of the office, or get online, meet people, talk and spot opportunities
- Rejection – It is in your head, so get over yourself and work out what you did wrong – Be Better, Grow and enjoy the Challenge of getting from No to Lets Go
- Shy? – Use the acronynm FORM as in ask questions about Family, Occupation, Recreation or Motivation, such as Are you here on your own? Why do you do? How do you spend your free time? Why are you here?
That 4 letter word is in there, maybe for a reason, you will have to WORK at being a successful Networker, rather than just turning up and expecting that people will hand you orders.
“All things being equal, people will deal with people they like. All things being unequal people will still deal with people they like”
Take a long term view to Networking, build your credibility, hone your presentation and learn how help others to help you, as you deliver referrals and benefit to others.
Business Network Lists
For many people, it does not come naturally to look for business for others, when you are busy looking for business for yourself. However successful networkers know that they get business for themselves by getting business for others first.
Write up a short list of 10 people you can consider the “close network”, best friends, business partners and stay in touch weekly or preferably daily. Then have a list of 100 people you stay in touch with weekly, even monthly, the “business network”, by email, tweet etc.
Share some useful industry news or tips or details of interesting events or podcasts or books. In terms of your client database this might be 1000 contacts where you do not stay connected regularly, but perhaps add them to an email list to send a Newsletter weekly or monthly, even quarterly, just to stay in their mind when they might want your product or service. Automation is great, but make sure that you do not treat people like numbers, as they will see this for what it is.
Some recommended Business Networking links:
BNI Business Network International
Women in Business – Network Ireland
Irish International Business Network
Most of these business networks will host or run events and have a guest speaker, from time to time, so you can learn something new or get a few useful tips, as well as make a few good connections. Get on their email list for newsletters and event invitations, webinars, Zoom calls and they will feed your networking calendar. Try attending one or two events a week, of any size. You can attend an event that is not related to your business sector, but may be related to a sector, in which you would like some new clients. If I want to deal with building companies, I might go to the Brighter Homes exhibition or Ideal Home Expo or a webinar or talk organised by the Construction Federation Some of the main Industry Federations allow Associate Membership, which may be useful to you. Most Zoom calls or webinars are free to attend.
Asking for and getting referrals – Being specific ! Business to business tips.
Good networkers know the importance of being specific when networking – in a presentation at a networking group, in a 1 to 1 meeting or generally in open networking, being specific improves opportunities for referrals and business. Make it easier for people to refer to you. Tell them who you want to meet and why.
See the article on Getting Referrals – Being Specific ! for a Case Study and some tips.
Concentrate within the group
I always encourage people to ask for names at the meetings, but remember to focus on the members in the room, ask them if you two could be referring more business to each other, ask how you can do it, talk until you both get better at helping each other. The room probably has enough people to give you all the business you need. Do more 121s, listen better, ask better questions, take notes, follow up. Circle of Trust 100 – This is a tough one – see the article here.
30+ Ways to Network well by being a good Networker – Givers gain
Now that you have the hang of the basics, helping others might take some thought and be inconvenient, but it pays off hugely! Helping others creates social capital which you can trade in later. It obeys the ‘Law of Reciprocity’.
Reciprocity: people feel an indebtedness that they will go to great lengths to repay. Giving and helping also makes you feel good and genuinely improves the life of others.
Here are 30+ examples of the ways you might give to others. Read and take action!
- Solve a problem – Offer your time to brainstorm or be a sounding board.
- Make introductions – Introduce and connect people to other good people.
- Pass them business – Give a referral or a lead or buy something, invest in their business.
- Signpost someone to good stuff! Make them aware of a chance or opportunity
- Talk behind their back, by saying good things about them to others. It does get back to them.
- Do a chore for someone. Help with visitors registration or coffees, tidy the room after. It all makes a difference.
- Pay somebody a compliment. Choose the right words and the right time, be sincere.
- Give a gift or offer graciously, making it personal somehow.
- Offer someone VIP access, to some of your material or resources.
- Offer a discount or concession, money off or deals are always popular.
- Give a bonus, a reward, something extra, a coupon or special code.
- Invite someone to something, a special or exclusive event. People love getting invitations, but not everyone gets on the initial list.
- Package up a token of some sort even something small or low cost. A simple pen or golf ball can be made special with the right packaging! A box adds to the value and sense of expectation.
- Send them a thank you card, just for being there or being themselves.
- Share their social, tweets or facebook and Instagram posts.
- Do a testimonial, review or recommendation, on Facebook, Google or Linkedin.
- Give constructive feedback, choosing your words carefully
- Make a useful or valuable donation to their cause, club or charity.
- Point out spinach in their teeth. They might not love you and initially it might be a bit embarrassing, but they’ll ultimately be glad you did.
- Stop to help with off the cuff or spontaneous offers of help which works wonders!
- Bring them something from your trip, a cold drink, a coffee, a muffin, a souvenir. Out of the blue!
- Cover for them. Could be in working a bit longer, finishing off a job or even taking the blame for something.
- Offer to help. Simply ask ‘how can I help you?’ Even just offering to help is a great give.
- Show appreciation. Tell them you love them, you get them, you like them. Often the more public the better.
- Take an interest. Ask them ‘how are you?’ and really mean it!
- Teach someone something. If they express awe at something you’ve done or compliment you on a skill, offer to show them how to do it.
- Include people. If you’re going out with a bunch of friends, ask someone else along.
- Listen – A friendly ear and a sympathetic shoulder is one of the greatest gives.
- Share knowledge Good stuff you find or know can make a great give.
- Recognize people’s achievements I love what you did there. I like the way you did that.
- Find out what makes people tick What do they care about? What’s valuable to them?
- Buy something from them – Could be a raffle ticket, a box of cookies or something else they are selling. Becoming a ‘customer’ singles you out for special treatment!
- Like them. Like their Facebook page and remember to share some of their posts
- Connect. Use LinkedIn to make a solid connection and remember to personalise your invitation
- Promote – Keep their business cards or fliers in your office to publicise them
- Coffee – Book time for a coffee and a quick chat
- Thank them when they do something, by hand writing a Thank You card and sending it
- Share this list or article
Print off this list and have it close to remind you. Soon you will have done them all and will be in real ‘giving’ mode. And the goodwill, kudos, karma and social capital you will produce will benefit the people to whom you give and you too. Now get giving, and if you can activate the Law of Reciprocity, all the better!
Many of these 30+ tips, came from my friend Rob Brown over at http://networkingcoachingacademy.com/ who is an authority on Networking and a great speaker, well worth considering for events. Can you suggest any other tips ?
10+ Benefits of local Network Groups
1. Get to know local business owners
2. Get to meet like minded people
3. Get introductions to other local businesses
4. Get referrals to potential clients
5. Collaborate with other people to deliver a project. For example a web designer could work with a photographer, videographer, content writer, graphic designer and digital marketer to deliver a website.
6. Learn from other members of the Network, from their experiences in business
7. Learn new skills from other members who are specialists in a particular art, such as Social Media or Photography
8. Make new friendships, people who understand your challenges and who want to help
9. Raise your profile in local business circles and benefit from the power of group marketing
10. Get lots of positive energy from people who like you have a passion or mission to succeed, which will increase your own confidence and feeling of well being
11. Share the costs of trade fair stands or advertising
12. Benefit from bulk buying services or products, such as phones, insurance, stationery, window cleaning
13. Get brilliant service from partners in your network who want to show you how great their products or service can be.
Networking is a key tool in sales and marketing, how will you approach it in the 2020’s?
Get some of tips on Selling here
10 Quick Networking Tips for Seasoned Business Networkers
Here I am preaching to the converted. You are the most experienced business networkers in your area, with probably about 50 meetings a year and 50 one to ones. Feedback from recent events I attended indicates we can be better at networking with our visitors.
1a Get attendee list if you can, to find out who will be there and do some research on them
1b Get to know about the event or group aims
1c POS Bring business cards, bring flyers, bring a pop up a banner or a liveried van/car
2. Be on time
2a To find event venue, parking and the room
2b To be settled, comfortable and relaxed, taking deep breaths
2c To use the restroom and check that you are looking great
2d Offer to help greet or sign in visitors, or with seating or get to talk with any guest speakers
2e Get a front row seat
3. Dress well
3a Dress comfortably, smart but maybe no stiff suits, be yourself
3b Be clean, smelling well, but do not over do the smells either
3c Brush teeth and do the breath test with your hand
3d Wear an identifying Name Badge and maybe liveried or branded company shirt/top
4a Meet new people, nervous people, single people – go for the person who is on their own
4b No fellow Network members, no friends, no fellow employees, no relations, no waiting staff
5. Ask Questions
Ask opening ‘open’ questions to get the conversation going. As a way of remembering, use the acronym F O R M, as in Family, Organisation, Recreation and Motivation. Have you got children, What ages are they, Are you involved in GAA or Rugby or ACCA whatever, What do you do at the weekend or to relax, Why are you attending or what do you hope to learn here? Only by listening and being open to hearing, will you get insights, that may open doors for you with people you meet. Focus on being more interested than interesting.
6.1 Be prepared for a bit of silence, get comfortable with it, give some space for people to talk so that you can listen, but be ready to restart the conversation with another open question
7.1 Listen, stay calm and spot opportunities to be of service
8. Refer business
8.1 Make introductions there in the room or later by phone or email
8.2 Recommend other competent problems solvers – it reflects well on you
9. Farm, do not hunt
9. 1 First impressions do last, so by all means stand close, but don’t get too close. Be talkative, but not overbearing. By nature people are initially suspicious
9.2 Avoid passing Business cards
9.3 Do collect business cards, make a connection and say that you will drop them an email later in the week with your own details
10.1 Send the promised mails with your details
10.2 Send any introductions you had promised or introduction to contact as a follow-up
10.3 Connect on LinkedIn making all the connections you can
10.4 From time to time send useful advice or links
10.5 Do what you said you would do
Evaluate the event after it’s all over.
What value did you get from it?
What value did you bring to the event?
How could you improve if you were doing it again?
Make it a game when you attend a Networking event. My ‘Dottie Game’ entails trying to connect as many people as I can. Try it, see if you can connect people or find a problem solver for the people you meet who say they have some challenge in their business. How can you be a positive force at each event?