Networking refers to the art of meeting people, forming relationships with them and finding ways to assist and support each other over time. As a VA, the majority of my business comes from referrals and so it is important to build a professional network with likeminded people from whom you can learn and benefit and to whom you can offer something. Networking is done in several ways. It can be done face to face in meetings or gatherings, via mail or email, over the phone or through online networking sites.
In this post, we will talk about face to face networking but in reality the 3 Top Tips below are relevant regardless of how you network.
1. Have a Plan
To succeed in anything you need to make a good plan way ahead of time. To begin with, you need to think of what you want to gain from your networking. What do you wish to be the end result? Do you want to get your name out there or increase your client base and reconnect with your clients? Once you know what you intend gain, you need to make a step by step guide of how you will achieve your goals. This will help you go to the event with a game-plan that will ensure you successfully achieve most if not all your objectives.
Your plan needs to include information like which events will ensure that you meet the right people to help you meet your goals.
2. Build relationships don’t Sell!
The main objective of networking is to create lasting relationships. This means that you will spend more time getting to know people, telling them a bit about yourself, and spend less time selling your products. Believe it or not, but good relationships will eventually lead to sales.
Start by asking people about themselves. Get to know what it is that they do. Note points of similarity between you and them, and then use them to draw their interest to you and in extension to your business. Prepare a short presentation about yourself and what you do beforehand so that you spend at most 20 seconds talking about you. Be polite while asking and answering questions. Spend a specified amount of time talking to one person and then move on to someone else. Try to meet as many new people as you can.
Remember you should come out as a person with integrity, who can be trusted and has a good reputation. With these three qualities, people will be drawn to you.
3. Conduct Follow Ups.
The most important aspect of networking is to do an adequate follow up. This means sending a thank you note after the event stating that it was a pleasure to meet them. If necessary, provide them with any additional information about you and your business that they will find useful if they asked. If possible, invite the person to a one-one-one meeting where you can get to know each other better.
Always keep an active conversation going with people you have met and build trust, a good reputation and lasting relationships. Do not rush to market your products and/or services. Become more than acquaintances first. One final thing to remember is to always ask for permission before adding someone to your mailing list.
To assist me in building those relationships, I keep my notes from any 1:2:1’s in the same notebook, this is particularly useful if trying to connect others within my network, who might benefit from meeting someone else in my network. So if someone says, they offer x, and then someone else tells me they are looking for that, I know who to refer to who.
In my own business, networking has been a journey, I have made mistakes but hopefully I have learnt from them. Now I find, I get more value both personally and professionally from building relationships (Relationship Marketing) than trying to sell to everyone I meet. I use the mantra: Know, Like and Trust.
If you have any networking tips you would like to share, please leave them in the comments box below.