It drives me crazy to see people attend networking events, or even seminars where other people who can help them in their businesses are, and do nothing but visit and make small talk. Ask them what they’re doing, and they’ll say they’re “networking.”
The question that always comes to my mind is, why are you spending your time, money, and energy at these events and making non-sensical small talk, when you could be making new, or renewing old relationships that can be leveraged into business and profit-generating contacts?
Networking isn’t visiting. It’s having a pre-determined reason to meet certain influential people who have the ability to help you in your business, and a script that makes it more advantageous for them to want to do business with you than it is for you wanting to do business with them.
Further, effective networking doesn’t take a “Here’s who I am and what I want from you” approach. It’s not about you, it’s about them. (“It” being everything, including business.) People who come off with a “getting” attitude or mentality will quickly be exposed and dismissed. There are several keys to effective networking:
- Try and determine who will be at the event in advance. See if you can get a list of attendees. Having a list of people to connect with in advance helps you plan your time at the event.
- Do your homework to learn about people you want to meet. The more you know about them (especially unusual or little-known information) can help you not only break the ice with them, but quickly develop a rapport or friendship and make them more open to sharing helpful information with you.
- If you can connect with the people you want to meet via email or (preferably) letter, so much the better. Let them know that you’ll be at the event and that you want to meet with them and that you have a special gift to present to them. Make your reason for wanting to meet with them so interesting and so compelling that they almost can’t say no.
- Be a giver, rather than a taker. Let them know that you want to be of service to them and that you would like to promote them or their cause. Make sure you have some quality leave-behind information to give your contact. Sign it with a personal note and say something like: “If there is anything I can do to support you in your next project, please don’t hesitate to ask. In fact, if you’re up for it, I’d love to interview you for my clients and promote your ______ (course, program, CD, book, etc.).”
- Have a well thought out script that let’s them know you’re there
for them. My friend, Larry Benet (“The Connector”) uses the following questions when meeting
— What do you do for fun when you aren’t doing ______ ?
— How did you get started in the business?
— What brings you to the conference?
— Who are you looking to meet while you are here at the event?
— If and when you have rapport, a great question to ask is this: “What is the most important project you are currently working on in case I or my network can help you in some way?”Here are some other questions to consider:
— What is something you’re really looking forward to?
— What has been the best part of this conference for you?
— What is the biggest take-away you’ve gotten so far?
— Which speaker was the most inspirational for you?
— Which speaker, in your opinion, gave the greatest value?
- After the event, make sure you follow up with a thank-you note. Not an email… not a computer-generated YouSendIt card… a personally hand-written thank-you card with your signature on it. This necessitates your getting their business card or contact information from them at the event. Oftentimes, women will not put their mailing address on their business card (unless it’s a PO Box), for obvious reasons. If that’s the case, make sure you let them know that you have a special gift you want to send them.I recently attended an event where I reconnected with my long-time friend, Tim Paulson (“The Head Coach of Business Success”). We hadn’t seen each other for several years. I sent him a thank you card, and he responded a couple of days later with a hand-written letter thanking me for thanking him. At that same event, my friend Lisa Sasevich sought me out of a crowd of 400 or so people to personally thank me for sending her a hand-written thank you note for spending a few minutes with me at an event we were both at several months ago. These things really work.
- Speed makes a huge difference. The faster you can get your thank you card in the mail, the better. If you’re at a multi-day event, write out your cards in you hotel room at the end of each day. That way your meeting with your contact and what you discussed will be fresh on your mind, and you won’t be likely to overlook someone. It’s much easier to write a few notes at a time when things are current, than to wait several days later and try to remember what you discussed. If you’re flying to and from an event, take advantage of that “dead time” and crank out your notes on the plane.
- Add value to your meeting. If possible, a few days later, send a small gift… a book, a CD, an article, or something of interest to THEM. At a recent seminar I attended, Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: “The Psychology of Persuasion” and “YES!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive”, said that gifts should be:
— Meaningful or Relevant
Last month I attended two seminars… Joe Polish and Dean Jackson’s “I Love Marketing” and Melanie Benson Strick’s “The Big Idea Incubator“. They were both top-notch and I had the opportunity to meet old friends, and make new ones… and I followed up with personal hand-written notes. Tomorrow I’ll be attending Jeff Walker’s “Product Launch Formula” event in Scottsdale, and I already have a list of people I want to connect with.
One very important person I’ll be meeting with is my long-time friend, and world-class copywriter, Ray Edwards. Ray and I have a dinner meeting scheduled and you can bet we’ll be talking business. In fact, I told one of our consultants of mine and Ray’s plans, and he said that putting the two of us together to discuss business over dinner is something that we could easily charge for, because the ideas will be coming a mile-a-minute.
That’s very flattering and a nice reputation to have, but you can do the same thing. It’s a matter of positioning… establishing yourself as an expert at what you do. It doesn’t have to be on the national or world scene, it can be done right in your hometown. And the way you start is by joining groups like BNI, LeTip, Meet-up, and other local networking groups, and then applying what we’ve discussed above.
Generally, business doesn’t fall out of a tree and hit you on the head. You have to go out and get it. And one of the best ways to generate local business is by joining local networking groups, showing a real interest in the people who are there, sharing valuable information and tips, and offering to be of service in any way you can… including speaking at their events.
It I hope you find this valuable and that you will share your comments with me. I’m always interested in what you have to say, and am here to help you in any way I can to achieve your successes.
Martin Howey, CEO
TopLine Business Solutions