Do you go out of your way to avoid business networking meetings? Do you tell yourself that networking doesn’t work for you? Do you view business networking strictly as the domain for the confident or extrovert?
Well if the response is yes to any of these questions read on and you might be pleasantly surprised to find out that business networking could provide you with a goldmine of opportunity, one which you could tap into more easily than your think.
Let’s dispel some myths first:
Myth 1: Networking is only for those who like to talk….wrong!
In fact those who like to talk about themselves at the expense of listening to others are actually probably the worst networkers. Business networking is all about relationship building with others in order that they can get to know, like and trust you. Those who talk and do not listen do two things: they fail to understand the needs of those they are talking to and secondly end up boring the other person. This is not a good start to building up relationships.
So if your strength is listening rather than talking you are already one step ahead of the game.
Myth 2: You have to be good at selling to be a good networker…wrong!
Well partly wrong…business networking isn’t about giving a sales pitch for your services and closing the sale, but it is all about selling yourself. This means that when you go to a networking event you need to relax and be yourself, then people will see the real you. If you start pretending to be someone you aren’t then others will see through this façade and whether it is consciously or unconsciously they will not trust you.
In fact many business people who dislike conventional sales techniques such as cold-calling opt for the softer option of business networking or referral marketing because building business in this way is based on developing relationships.
Myth 3: You are the only person who will feel nervous at a networking event…wrong!
When faced with a room full of strangers there are few people who will say they relish making those first steps to approaching someone to talk to, especially when they have arrived alone. But remember, everyone is there for the same reason – to meet people, so think how delighted someone will be if you go and join them, especially if they too are on their own.
If you struggle for topics to start the conversation, ask some easy open-ended questions that will quickly help you to build rapport with the other person. For example ‘What other events do you go to?’ or ‘where do you come from’ or ‘What do you do?’
So, what other business networking tips should you take with you to your next event to help boost your confidence?
Undoubtedly your top tip is to be prepared. Know where you are going, arrive plenty in time and find out what the format of the event is.
Have your elevator pitch prepared – this is the brief sound bite you give when someone asks you what you do. If you will be giving a formal 60 second pitch, ensure this too is prepared in advance.
Dress appropriately for the event but try to wear what you feel comfortable in.
Prepare some simple rapport-building questions you can ask anyone to get the conversation started and take plenty of business cards with you.
So apply all these tips, be prepared to stick with it and soon you will find that networking is no longer a chore but an enjoyable way to grow your business.