Networking comes easy to some of us, but for others it’s like going through hell every time someone asks, “why do you do?” To be good at it takes practice in these areas:
- Knowing how to introduce yourself and your business
- Knowing how to actively listen to others
- Following-up with new contacts after the event
For a digital marketer, I do a lot of networking in person. That’s because it’s still the most effective way I’ve found to secure high-value clients who want to stick around for the long haul. If you sell low-cost products and services in high volumes, digital marketing can be a great way to get bigger scale and reach more people for impulsive purchases. But being in a room with people who are interested in what you do, is by far the best way to connect, build rapport and start a great relationship with a new client.
Knowing how to introduce yourself and your business
This is probably the part that feels the hardest to those who consider themselves to be introverts. You are probably even saying to yourself right now, “what the heck am I meant to say to someone who I don’t know without sounding like an idiot?”
There are a few formulas for introducing yourself and lightly pitching your business that doesn’t sound too salesy.
I like to use the elevator pitch method. First, you introduce your name and the name of your business, then you mention a common problem that people have that your business solves. Finally, you tell them what kind of client or customer that you’re after
Let’s say that your name is Carolyn and you have a catering business.
Your introduction could be like this:
I’m Carolyn, my business is called Eating Joy. You know how getting someone into cater an event can feel a bit like you have no idea what you’re gonna get or how much it’s gonna cost until you go through a long sales pitch from a caterer? I solve that by making sure that all my packages and pricing is clear and easy to understand on my website, and you can book catering without even having to speak to anyone. And that tends to suit personal assistants who just want to get the job done and even wedding planners who are way too busy organising everything else to be obsessing about every bread roll from a catering company.
See how simple that seemed? The formula is:
1. My name is…
2. My business is called…
3. You know how…
4. I solve this by…
5. My ideal client is…
You can express each of these differently, but keeping that order makes sense and leaves a great first impression of a business owner who really knows their market. And even if the person you’re introducing yourself to doesn’t need your services, they’re already imagining the people they know who could use your services.
Knowing how to actively listen to others
You might have heard of the term, “active listening.” But what exactly is it? It’s most easily described as listening and letting the other person know you are listening. So you might listen to what someone is saying and repeat back some of what they said to confirm that you heard it correctly. Nodding your head at the same time as you’re listening also expresses to the other person that you are taking in what they’re saying. The idea is to let the other person know you haven’t drifted off, and that you’re understanding them clearly.
My own experience has shown me that I have better relationships and conversion of sales from discovery calls when I show active listening. Not only because the client feels listened to. But also because my quote later contains everything that they wanted, meaning that they also feel a level of trust when it comes to dealing with me. After all, if I’ve listened to them before they are more likely to trust me to listen to them again if something goes wrong in the future.
Following-up with new contacts after the event
Few clients are ever going to sign on the dotted line at a networking event. That’s not really what the event is for. Presenting a solution and furthering the relationship is what happened after the event. The best time to do that is the very next business day. Why? Because that first impression you made is still fresh in their minds. Your pitch is fresh in their memory. And they actually expect it. After all, if they are a business owner, they are probably there for the same reason as you – to find new business opportunities.
So what does your follow-up contain? And how do you do it?
I’ve personally found that a phone call is too pushy and feels like you’re taking a wrecking ball to someone’s day and forcing your way through the door. None of us enjoys having our day interrupted by some guy desperate to grab a coffee so that they can hard sell you their next big thing. But an email or instant message on LinkedIn or even Instagram can come as a surprise, or even delight someone who wasn’t even expecting you to follow up with them (because let’s face it, this is probably the one part of the formula that gets forgotten the most!
In your email, layout the following:
1. A mention of it being a pleasure to meet them at the event.
2. Mention something personal that might have been discussed
3. Mention something about their business that you’d like to know more about
4. Mention something that they may have shown interest in about your business during your conversation
5. Suggest a time and day to meet up for a chat, and a length of time to meet for
6. Again mention that it was a pleasure to meet them and that you look forward to catching up.
Here’s an example:
Was great to meet you at the Networking Drinks last night. I hope you managed to get back in time to watch that new episode of Wandavision with the kids.
I was interested in what you were saying about how your business helps train not for profits in software packages as I have worked with a few not for profits myself and it would be good to know exactly the kind of organisations I could refer to you.
I noticed you were also interested in the stuff I’m doing with the health sector, so thought there might be a chance to cross-refer some work to each other.
Let’s grab a coffee before work on Thursday. I work in the city as well, so how about we make it at 8 am for a quick 20-minute chat at George’s Cafe on Smith Street? You mentioned that you often go there, so thought it would be a good place to meet
Again, it was great to meet you. Hope to catch you on Thursday morning.
Of course, Paul is under no obligation to meet you before work at George’s Cafe. But by putting the schedule and location out there, Paul doesn’t have to arrange anything. And it also gives him space to perhaps suggest another time of day. He’ll be more willing to work with you because you let him know to only expect a short 20-minute chat, so he’s not too worried about how it might mess with his day.
Be that person
I know that I admire those people who seem to be able to network with ease, make new contacts quickly and have a system in place that means that they follow up with everyone they met. And honestly, when they follow up with me, I tend to feel quite special. It’s like they’re telling me that I’m a nice guy who made a great first impression. And who doesn’t like their ego stroked a bit? So imagine the impression you will leave if you be that person at your next networking event?