I have met several people who feel that they either don’t want to network or don’t think networking is an effective use of their time. More times than not, these people simply do not understand the principles of effective networking. When used properly, the person who networks well is successful in the business pursuits because they understand the principles of networking.In fact,w ere I to become a wedding vendor again, I would turn to Networking first to bring in business. I believe that Networking is one leg of your marketing that everyone needs to master. Here are some tips to help you polish your approach.
Simply showing up to a networking event does not insure success. Showing up and hanging with your friends or heading to the buffet or the bar is no different. In order to make your networking a success, there are some simple rules you must follow. Here are 7 of them:
1. Go in with a plan. Define your success before you hand out your first card. Does success mean simply handing out cards or does it mean getting referrals. Maybe it means getting an appointment. Determine what is reasonable to have happen at the event and set your sights on that goal. Failing to plan is planning to fail (overused I know but it is true)
2. Determine what a good lead/referral is for you and let people know. You can simply say “a good lead in for my product/service looks like___________”. Never be too broad. You may have a broad business which can hit any demographic, but keep your sites set a little better so that your contacts can narrow in on what makes sense to you.
3. Plan on how many leads you will give out at the event. The key to successful networking is not simply getting leads (although that is fun) but also in giving those leads out. Networking is a 2 way street that needs to be well traveled on either side.
4. Come up with an escalator/elevator speech that tells people the problems you solve, the type of customer you best serve and ask them if they know anyone that might fit that description. Use this speech as much as you can and refine it. (Hint: never say “we help _________” when you say “we help…” your audience tunes out. This is a hard habit to break, but work on it!) Break their patterns by saying something funny or catch them off guard by telling a story-people love stories and they will listen. I have been to so many events where people bore the hell out of me and everyone else there by droning on about “their stuff”. Here is a little piece of advice- make people care about your stuff, don’t assume that they are so boldly interested in you and what you do, because they usually aren’t.
5. Listen twice as much as you talk. People love to talk about themselves and they will grow to like the person that not only listens, but encourages them to talk more. Ask a lot of sincere questions and you will build trust. You should use this as an opportunity to get to learn about what other wedding vendors do, how they do and what sets them apart in the industry so you can potentially refer them out.
6. Take notes on business cards so you will remember them. Also-try to plan off site visits then and there so you will have their undivided attention and they will not be trying to get onto their next person to meet. Again- start to build relationships (try for 5 new people and 5 friends for each meeting). People do business with those who they have relationships with. Period.
7. Have fun and relax. The more approachable you are, the more people will want to approach you. The point and purpose is to meet people who can help you grow your business while helping them to grow their business. If networking is drudgery for you, you will not do it well if you do it at all.
If you like to go to the bar, it’s okay to build friends with people who also like to go to the bar- but don’t go to the bar if you don’t like people who drink. Also, try not to be too opinionated. I have seen so many people talk me out of referring them because they ramble on about stuff that either they have no clue about or come off as abrasive. Be friendly and nice, people usually like friendly and nice….
Networking works very well when done right. Hone your approach and your networking skills and you will see the results!
Until Next Week, Here’s to Your Success!