Making connections and maintaining relationships goes hand in hand with running a successful business. Although you may dread introducing yourself to a bunch of strangers, you’ll find that building a network of colleagues and business connections can make it easier when you need a new client, a new job, have questions or need to develop your skills further.
Here are a six tips for effective networking:
Arrive on time. Showing up a few minutes early is much better than showing up a little late, especially if you don’t know anyone. When you arrive first, you’ll notice it’s calmer and quieter which will make it easier to find people who haven’t joined a conversation yet.
Smile. This is a simple rule of engagement. Smiling will ease your nerves, and others will see you as warm and inviting. Remember to smile before you enter the room and before you start your next conversation.
Talk to people you don’t know. Networking events are a great opportunity to get to know new people, so don’t limit yourself by talking only to your friends. Sure, it’s easier to hobnob with familiar faces, but you’ll never meet your next big client or business partner without taking chances.
Ask Questions. Put your smile on and walk up to a person or a group, and say, “May I join you” or “Have you been to an event like this before?” Don’t forget to listen to their replies. Listening is an excellent way to get to know a person.
Leave the sales pitch at the door. Networking is about relationship building. Keep your conversation light and informal, and resist the hard sell. People are more apt to do business with – or partner with – people whose company they enjoy. If a potential customer asks you about your product or service, be ready with an easy description of your company and listen to what they have to say.
Listen. Listening is one of the most valuable skills to have in networking and people notice when you take genuine interest in what they are saying. Listening will help you get to know someone better, which can lead to productive professional relationships. To be a great listener, look people in the eye, say their name, listen to what they have to say, and ask open-ended questions about topics that are easy to discuss. This will help you learn their challenges and get to know them better, which can ultimately lead to more productive professional relationships.
Follow up. Networking is where the conversation begins, not ends. If you had a great conversation with someone, get in touch with them within 48 hours of the event to show you’re interested in available. Reference something you discussed at the event so they remember you.