Five powerful networking tips

I’m a bit new to networking, having done it for just five years.  However, in this time I have attended a wide variety of networking events: after hours, before hours, luncheons, etc. I am always astonished about the networking process. I have met thousands of people, but what amazes me is that out of all the people that I have come in contact with, I have only had two people follow up with me.  When I ask others about their networking experience, it is clear that this is not an isolated event. Non-follow-up is a very common theme. 

What a hugely missed opportunity. If a business owner takes the time to attend a networking event why not take the next step and make something happen with it? Some statistics in the business world point out that, on average, it takes seven contacts with an individual before people decide to do business with them. That means that following up on all leads is critical in creating a sale or new connection.

Think back to your last networking event: How many cards did you collect?  What did you do with those cards afterward?  Did they get lost somewhere between the event and your office? If they did make it back to your office did they get entered into your contacts or did they simply get thrown in a drawer destined for the trash in six months?

All business cards will eventually get discarded if there was not a relationship attached to it. People do business with people they know, trust, and like. It is through consistent effort on your part that the know, trust and like part happens. More succinctly put, you  become important to them. 

How do you become important to them when you only just met? People like to feel valued and networking gives you a way to do this by letting them know that they made an impression on you and that conversations you shared with them were not forgotten as you left the room. The process below outlines five simple ways to make the most out of networking by doing just that.

  • Understand that you can only control one thing at the event: You! You do not have any power over who you will meet, the quality of the connection, or where the connection will lead you. You absolutely have power over how you “show-up” at the event. Set clear intentions on what that will look like for you. For example, “I am showing up with energy and confidence.”
  • Dress the part. It may seem obvious, but people are extremely visual and are likely to develop ideas about you based on how you look. If you are well dressed and put together they are more likely to take you and your business more seriously. You will also feel more confident.
  • Limit your words. Be a listener, rather than a talk, to make a lasting and best impression. Apply the 80/20 rule. Allow them to talk 80 percent of the time and you 20 percent.
  • Use the person’s name often. People tend to respond well to this. This will also help you to remember who’s who afterwards. 
  • Make a point to collect their business card, keeping in mind that quality of contacts trumps quantity any day and afterward, follow-up. This step puts you ahead of the game, and keeps you leaps and bounds ahead of your competition. Here’s what it should look like:
  • Divide the stack of the cards you collect from others into two stacks. The first stack will be for those that you enjoyed connecting with and want to know better and/or those that might be a great power partner for you. The second stack will be individuals that you don’t necessary see a connection with, but still want to thank them for speaking with you. Email the first group with a personalized email inviting them to coffee/tea/lunch. You can also take this time to invite them to be a part of your social media. (Email me if you would like to see the “script” that we use.) The second stack can be emailed thanking them for the conversation, and you can also invite them to be a part of your social media community if you so desire.

It’s easy, it’s routine, personable and it works. Many a current partnership exists in my business because I’ve repeatedly employed these connecting efforts. Most all of the time, the person I follow-up with is grateful and happy for the communion, whether it results in mutually beneficial business afterward or not.

Try it. You’ll likely be very happily surprised at the results.