I had the pleasure of attending one of Etta Cohen, the founder of Forward Ladies‘ networking trainings and it was simple and brilliant. Etta is the founder of the UK’s largest network for women in business, with a database of approximately 13,500 professional women. Whats really impressive is that this database was built mostly with offline activities.
Below are 10 key take aways from that training. Should help you prepare your next networking meeting :). Its amazing just how much you can forget when you don’t take time to refresh and update your knowledge and skills.
1. Networking is not selling
The premise of networking is not about hard selling your services. Its really about building relationships. This means that you need to develop a long term view of the benefits of networking to get the most out of the relationships.
2. Its part of your job
Networking should be part of every entrepreneurs role. A percentage of the time you spend working should be committed to active networking because believe or not, business networking is NOT social entertainment. Networking is a way of gathering market intelligence, building your contact base and meeting like minded people.
3. Have the right mindset
Be confident and believe that you have every right to be there no matter how intimidated you might feel about the crowd. Be proud of your business or product because its easier to sell and promote what you believe in. Also remember, most people networking also don’t want to be there either so you are all really in the same boat.
4. Preparation is key
Prepare for networking events like you would any other business meeting. Dress the part and find out who else will be attending before the meeting if you can.
5. A card in every bag
Try to have a card in every bag. Do this when you get home so you are always prepared. I’ve to admit I’ve been caught out by this more times than I care to admit
6. Work the room
Try to speak to as many people as you can. For some high level contacts, that may be your only chance of meeting them so be prepared to wait and introduce yourself to them even if it takes abit longer than you had anticipated. Remember, its a job and you’ve got to do it.
7. Network everywhere
Networking should not just happen at “networking events” always be on the look out for opportunities to connect. On the bus, in the cafe, whilst waiting in a queue etc. Etta told the story of how a stranger she started chatting to on the train turned out to be part of the business development panel at Boots, the pharmacy.
8. The magic happens after the event
After the event follow up. Grade your contacts as A, B, C according to the level of contact you want to maintain but don’t forget them all. Remember its only six degrees of separation so you are possibly only a handshake away from someone you really want to meet. Make a note on the business cards so that you know who is who and can follow up appropriately.
9. Listen and lead the conversation
Listen to what people are saying and any clues they may be giving about their current life. Treat people well and they’ll never forget you. To facilitate small talk, brush up on your current affairs so you have something to talk about to complete strangers. Ask questions and let people do the talking whilst maintaining eye contact so they know you are listening.
10. Have a goal
Networking only pays off when it is done consistently. Make sure to have a goal for the year. E.g. I’ll attend an event every month and remember relationships are built when you follow up.
You would typically find me at almost ALL Forward Ladies Bradford events.
Thank you for reading and sharing!
What’s been your experience with business networking?
Love it or hate it?
Leave a comment and let me know why. Come on don’t be shy :).