A few things you need to get straight in your business (and head) about networking, it’s a process. Like any other process, you need to have an action plan with goals of your outcome. Below are a few things you should do to start networking effectively.
Know the Basics of What You Need
Seems a little silly to say, but you need to know what your needs are before networking. Yes, everyone needs to make sales and gain new contacts, what I am speaking of are the needs within your business. What services or products do you or your business need to perform better? Are you currently looking for a new graphic designer or need another payment processing solution? Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations when attending events, the purpose of networking is to get help and be a help to others as well.
Also, do you have a Strategic Partner? If you are looking for one, begin by thinking about what products or services would complement yours.
For example, a Personal Trainer and a Distributor for a wellness product would be great partners, they are going after the same type of client, but not offering competing services. This process will help maximize your time and efforts while attending events.
You should also be prepared to explain what you are looking for in a potential client or customer. I know what you’re thinking, you know what you are looking for, but make sure it’s easy enough for everyone else. I like to ask myself a question about my prospects. What situations are people or businesses in that make them an ideal client for me? Are they suffering from high turnover in their sales department? Are they closing a branch office or relocating? Whatever circumstances make for an ideal client, be prepared to describe it to others. Make the task of finding leads and referrals for you as easy as possible.
Finding the Right Events
The next step is to start looking for the right events to attend to maximize your time. There are several sites that you can check out to see what events are coming up in your area. A great place to start is your local chamber, if you are looking for more specialized events, you can also try Meetup. If your ideal client is a woman business owner, then try to target women’s events that are hosted at lunch or after hours.
You may see some results at a Golf or charity event, but keep the picture of your ideal client in mind. Ask yourself, would they be attending this event, if the answer is no or not sure, then move on.
Treat it Like a Sales Appointment
When you schedule time to network, it’s a great idea to set a goal of attending a certain number of events per week or per month. When you find events to attend, be sure to treat them like sales appointments, don’t skip out or reschedule them. Like any sales activities, don’t let it overwhelm your calendar, attend an amount of events that you are comfortable with, being consistent is key.
Have a Number in Mind
Have a number in mind each month, not your sales goal, but a networking goal. You will continue to build those relationships with the connections you meet, but you should have a goal in mind. Whether its meeting a certain number of people a month or attending five to ten events a month, stay consistent in your efforts as it will eventually pay off in your business.
Being stared at by strangers is something I have become very accustomed to. Not because I am a beautiful, ethereal being that catches everyone's attention (but I will take it if that's what you're thinking), but in the way that I am a Black woman, a Black person, and people tend to notice my presence. I don't think there is a Black person out there that can deny knowing what it's like to be stared at by a random person.