When many of us are looking for new business we can find ourselves in the mysterious world of business networking; but for most, attending open networking events is a less than enjoyable experience. We all know that to find new customers we must speak with more people, so why do so many of us find this such a daunting task?
The reason we find this difficult is that we were all conditioned as children by a simple sequence of words- “Don’t talk to strangers”. The first challenge is to defy that conditioning and I’ve found that the easiest way to resolve this is to understand that pretty much everybody else is feeling the same as you.
Getting over the initial ‘fear’ is one thing, however, to succeed in a network here are some simple rules that have worked for me, and I am sure if you choose to employ them they could have significant benefit to you too.
1. Have a plan.
Regardless of the size of the event it is unlikely that you can develop lasting business relationships with all in the room and I am certain that there will be some people who will be of considerable more value than others. Set a goal and stick to it, It may be to make a number of new connections or to set a meeting with a specific person. Just turning up and seeing what happens is leaving your success to chance.
2. Know what you are going to talk about.
Starting a conversation is the hardest thing to do when entering a room full of strangers. To open conversation the easiest place to start is talk about a subject that you all have in common. The one subject that you all have in common is the event you are at. As such plan a series of questions related to the event.
3. Talk of how you help people.
“So what do you do then?” This is a question that you are almost guaranteed to be asked yet each time I witness it the receiver of the question looks startled and bemused and hesitantly gives their job title or profession as the answer. Your goal from this question is to open a conversation by being interesting to them. So when asked this question please rephrase it in your head to “How do you help people?” and answering that question instead.
4. Sell to the room.
This goes against what you are often told when networking yet is based on the simple reality that your best referrals come from existing customers. Therefore to gain a quantity of referrals you need a good number of customers within your network. Now this does not mean forcing your products or services on people but simply having a simple entry level offering that makes it easy for people to try your offerings.
By utilising some if not all of the above tips I am sure you will reap significant returns. Good luck in your networking!