Networking Tips – How To Network Successfully

Networking like Meerkats

A few years ago, I met Seán Gallagher at a network meeting. We got chatting as you do over cups of tea. Seán thinks networking is akin to going to an AA meeting “Hi my name is Seán, and I am an Entrepreneur!” And everyone in the group says “Hiiiiiii Seán”.

Networking like Meerkats

Boy, I had to laugh at that, as sometimes that’s exactly how it feels. And just recently at a speed-networking event, the MC mentioned that there were 45 people in the room selling. He then asked the question “So, who is buying?”

Networking only to sell

What a pointless exercise: going to a networking event to sell your brand, business or latest idea, when everyone is there to do exactly the same thing. There is nothing more frustrating than coming home with 28 business cards in your pocket, and not knowing anything about the person behind the business.

Top Networking tips

So here are my top 10 tips for good networking practice, and are guaranteed to get you noticed and remembered.

1. Dress to impress!

I have given up wearing suits, because I wish to portray a softer image, whilst remaining professional. So I make sure my attire is pressed, clean and comfortable. Ladies, watch the high heels – they may make your legs look leaner, but networking is generally done whilst standing, for hours!

2. Smile your way there!

Whilst in the car, get yourself into a good mood and leave the car/train/bus smiling. This will carry through during your first interaction.

Networking with food

3. Carry minimum “stuff”

Business cards, flyers, free pens. You do not need your laptop bag, portfolio, overcoat, bottled water or handbag weighing you down whilst standing for up to 3 hours.

4. Watch what you eat and drink

It amazes me when food is supplied at such events, it’s always food that gets stuck in your teeth, or makes a horrendous mess when nibbled on. If you are starving – take a few minutes out to satisfy your hunger, then double check your teeth and breath. Do not drink if you get tipsy after a glass of wine.

5. Approach an open group initially

Don’t gate-crash a closed group. Their body language should be enough to tell you to stay away. Head to a large group where the conversation is very general, or someone who is standing alone, probably feeling nervous.

6. Introduce yourself assertively

Networking handshake

Full eye contact, broad smile, good handshake, say your first name, then say your full name and company name. People rarely catch it the first time. If you struggle to remember names, here’s a great tip: when they are about to tell you their name, ask yourself this simple question “What is your name?” You are preparing the subconscious to receive that important piece of information. Then immediately use their name to re-enforce it in your mind.

7. Name tags

You either love them or hate them! I carry two all the time, one with just my first name, and one with my full name and coloured logo, depending on the level of formality. That allows me to cover all options.

8. Questions to ask

Some others find networking really hard, and may stumble after the initial introductions. Rather than relishing in your new companion fading fast, offer up some of the following questions:

  • What do you do?
  • How do you do it?
  • What is your role in the company?
  • What size is the company?
  • What/who is your market?
  • How long are you in business?
  • What do you want to get out of today?

9. Tell them about you

Just because you know what you do really well, doesn’t mean that your companion does. Imagine you are explaining your service to a 9-year-old – keep the language basic and to the point, unlike this woman here who clearly enjoys jargon.

10. Follow through

Try and think of a way to offer up your business card, rather than thrusting it in their face as you are introducing yourself. It’s hard enough for someone to remember your name, without trying to do it whilst looking impressed at your business card. Within a few working days, always follow through with any promises made. If no action was promised at the event, follow up with a very courteous e-mail, reminding the person of who you and your business are, but NO selling in your language. Instead, invite them to read a blog post or offer a free resource.

Building Relationships

Networking is important for building relationships with the people you will meet regularly, so start slowly and build organically. It should not be felt as a necessary evil, but rather part of your marketing strategy, increasing brand awareness.

Have you a top tip you can encourage others to use? Add it as a comment below…

2 thoughts on “Networking Tips – How To Network Successfully

  • October 19, 2012 at 11:10 am
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    Thank you Elaine for such a comprehensive and easy to get guide into networking. You are so right about listening more and selling less . I believe nothing sells like a genuine to connect, sharing and true authenticity. I am sure we would all feel less nervous about networking once we go at it with the Attitude you outline so neatly here

    • October 19, 2012 at 11:39 am
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      I really believe if we all went to a networking event as “ourselves”, it would make it easier for everyone. Unfortunately, we learn very early on that we must “perform” for our business, or organisation that we work for. As a very clever lady commented on this post on Facebook – “I think humour and being a tinsy bit odd helps people to remember you and relax with you – resulting in a better conversation…” Better conversations result in trust and better business.
      Thank you Elish for your contribution, always welcome, and yes, selling is not all about “I do this, my services are…” As social beings, we desire connection, whether personally or in business.
      Thanks for reading, I am delighted you gained value from the post.

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