This article was first published by Business Matters in The Chichester Observer, written by Steve Wilson of Wilson Design Associates, founder of the First Friday Network, on how to acheive the best success from your networking activities.
What is Business Networking?
Business networking is not an opportunity to hard sell. If you approach networking with the intent to do nothing more than sell to the people in the room you will probably go away disappointed.
Networking is about making long-term contacts and friendships. You may be lucky and meet someone who is looking for exactly what you supply and you get immediate business as a result, but most of the time networking is about developing relationships and trust. The other misconception is to see someone in the same line of business as a competitor and stear clear of them, they may indeed be someone with whom you can form an alliance!
It is said that up to 70% of business is done by word of mouth referral - so attend as many network events as you can! Being succesful at networking relies on a few basic techniques: confident presentation (but not being pushy), communication skills and follow-up. It is important that you give a clear message about what your business is. Be aware that the tone of your voice and your body language are part of that message as well. Don't forget to smile! It is a good idea to vary your message, that way you won't be bored saying it and hopefully neither will the people hearing it.
In return for them giving you their attention you must listen with intent to what other people tell you about their business and try to pass on helpfull contacts and referalls. Follow-up every lead or referral you are given. If you promise to do something, make sure you do it - referrals are based on trust, remember that when someone refers you it reflects on them, so if you let them down they will not refer you to anyone else.
To get the most out of your networking try to find events where you feel comfortable, you will be more relaxed there and more likely to create positive contacts. If you find yourself standing alone, look for a friendly face or a group of people you can join, try not to interrupt two people who are deep in conversation. If you see someone standing alone bring them into your conversation, they will feel more comfortable and be grateful to you. If you have little in common always try to point them in the direction of someone you think may be of interest to them. Remember to be yourself, you're NOT in the elevator with Bill Gates!
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