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Business owner’s guide to networking like a pro

  • Business owner's guide to networking like a pro

As the saying goes “people buy people”. We’ve all seen the continued rise of social media in recent years but there’s one thing that hasn’t changed… We’re all real people that want to deal with real people. Face to face business networking still plays a massive role in building relationships (both potential client relationships and supplier/partner relationships). Here’s a collection of tips and techniques you can use to be more effective and more efficient next time you’re at a business networking event, meeting, conference or even a social situation.

1. It all starts with knowing who you want to meet

The first step for any business networker is to be crystal clear about who you want to meet. That includes not only knowing the profile of your target customers (i.e. size, location, sector, even style) but also knowing which other professions you want to build relationships with as potential referral partners. As an example, at evolve we focus on Business Owners or Marketing Managers based in Andover, Winchester, Southampton or Bournemouth. We aim to work with companies with between 5 and 50 staff and try to focus on business to business (B2B) where possible. Here’s a few tips to help you get clear on who you want to meet:

  • List the criteria of your target client (company size, location, sector etc.)
  • Also list a few professions that could be good referral partners (i.e. companies or trades that also support your target clients)
  • Research which events they go to (speaking to anyone you already know that fits your criteria is a great way to find new networks)
  • Once identified, visit a few events to get a feel for the style of event and type of people that take part

2. Make sure to prepare for each event

If you’re going to invest your time in attending a networking event it’s worth putting in a little extra time to get the most from the event. While it’s nice to meet new people and have a good natter, the best results will come from being laser focussed about the people you want to meet. Here’s a few tips for how to prepare for an event:

  • Think about which of the attendees you’d like to meet
  • If possible, get a copy of the attendees list from the event organiser
  • If you’re unable to get an attendees list, consider giving the organiser a call and asking if there are any of your target customers attending
  • If all else fails, take a few minutes when you arrive at the event to get a list of attendees from the organiser and see who you’d like to meet before you start networking
  • Always get to an event early (at least 15 minutes before the published start time). Some of the best connections I’ve made at networking events have been before the crowds arrive.
  • Think about how to explain what you do, briefly and with interest (i.e. your elevator pitch). We’ve created a free template to help you do this that you can find at the end of this post.
  • Once you arrive, don’t be afraid to ask the organiser for a personal introduction to a person you want to meet
  • Make sure you have plenty of business cards with you, and even more importantly, ensure they make a great first impression
  • Finally, think about your appearance. Make sure it gives the right impression for your business and if possible, wear something that catches they eye and that helps people to remember you

3. You have two ears but only one mouth

A networking event isn’t simply an opportunity to sell your business to as many people as possible. In fact, if you go to an event expecting to make a sale you’re likely to be disappointed. But, if you go with the aim of building some good long term relationships then you’ll have a much more productive event. As the saying goes, you have two ears but one mouth, use them in proportion. Here’s a few tips to help you lay the foundations for strong relationships:

  • Make sure to listen more than you talk
  • People like to talk about themselves and like people who take an interest in them
  • Listening well and asking intelligent questions are a great (and relatively easy) way to build a relationship with someone
  • Try to focus on the person you’re talking to rather than looking around the room to see who you’re going to talk to next
  • Listen for opportunities to help people rather than opportunities to sell. Obviously keep in mind your end goal, but no-one likes to be sold to. Find a way to help that person and the goodwill will be returned at some point
  • If you do end up speaking to someone that’s not a good fit for you (and it does happen, believe me), always try to leave politely by either introducing them to someone else you know and then making your exit, or simply excuse yourself with a valid reason (i.e. get a refill on your drink, use the loo etc.)
  • Wait to be asked for a business card, don’t force them on people. It’s not a race to give out as many business cards as possible
  • Saying that, don’t be afraid to ask for the business card of someone you’d like to continue a relationship with
  • When you do receive a card, make sure you put it in a different pocket to the one where you keep your cards

4. Always, always, always follow-up

Meeting a contact at a networking event or conference is only the start. Good networkers know that it takes work and focus to build strong and fruitful relationships. Here’s a few tips to help you follow-up effectively:

  • Meeting someone at a networking event is only the beginning of the relationship
  • Always follow-up with the people that you’d like to build a relationship with
  • Think about offering to buy them a coffee and find out more about each other’s businesses
  • Add that person to your Linkedin network. That way they’re not only able to check out your Linkedin profile, testimonials and experience (better make sure it’s up to scratch), but they’ll also be notified of any updates you share

Conclusion

As mentioned at the start of this post, there will always be a need to meet real people face to face. By being intelligent about how you network (hopefully using some of the tips above) and making use of the tools available (Linkedin, Google Analytics, Email etc.) you should be able to make the most of the time you invest in networking and maximise any opportunities that come your way as a result.

Do you have any tips for networking that haven’t been mentioned? I’d love you to share them in the comments section below. Alternatively, if you’d rather talk to a real person then feel free to give me a call on 01264 735 333. I’d love to hear from you. And before you go, why not download our free Elevator Pitch Template below.

Download our free Networking Elevator Pitch Template
Download our free Networking Elevator Pitch Template

Download our free Networking Elevator Pitch Template

About the author:

Tom Perkins

Tom runs evolve websites, an innovative service creating stunning websites that come with updates included for a fixed monthly fee. He’s passionate about websites, design, marketing and giving customers an unbelievable service. When he’s not working, Tom enjoys cycling, playing squash, eating tasty food and anything to do with cars.

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