Networking can be scary for many people. It’s a lot of pressure to meet new people and present yourself in the best light possible, all while trying to make an excellent first impression. However, networking is also an amazing way to grow your business by getting it out there and making connections with people who could become your clients or vendors in the future.
According to a recent business report from LinkedIn, networking is the number one way to grow your business. A study from the University of Michigan found that networking can generate up to 10 times more revenue than advertising.
How are you doing at networking? Are you meeting new people or making connections and generating referrals? If you could do it better, what would you change?
If you’re going to network, you need to do it right. You want to get the most out of these meetings and build relationships that will pay off later on down the road.
Know What You Want To Get Out Of Networking Before Going
Effective networking requires a specific goal in mind. Before you attend any networking event, you should have a clear idea of what you want to get out of it. This will help you figure out which events might be worth your time and which ones you should avoid.
Some of the most common goals for networking include finding prospective clients and leads, growing your referral network, and finding potential partners. If you’re looking to network with people in your industry, you can try some industry-specific or niche networking groups. If you’re trying to network with people in different industries or you’re hoping to expand your professional network, you can try to find local networking events that might be relevant to you. However, make sure to check out the other attendees and ask yourself whether you’ll be a good fit for the group.
Go Where Your Audience Is
When choosing the right networking groups, it makes sense to look for the ones where the people you want to connect with tend to congregate. This way, you have a better chance of meeting people who might be interested in your business and are in a position to refer your business or become clients. Find out where your target customers and referral sources are, and then make an effort to be there. This doesn’t mean you have to attend every single event in town – but it does mean being strategic about where you put yourself out there. The more specific you can be when it comes to your networking goals, the easier it will be to find the right groups to attend. For example, if you’re interested in growing your referral network, you may want to try some networking groups for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Keep The Objective(s) At The Forefront
When you’re in the middle of a networking event, it can be easy to lose sight of the objectives you set for yourself beforehand. This is why it’s important to keep these objectives at the forefront of your mind throughout the event.
Keep a mental checklist of the things you want to accomplish throughout the event. This can help you stay focused, get more out of your time at the event, and avoid wasting time. Most importantly, it will help you avoid getting distracted by the small talk and other things that often happen at networking events. As tempting as it may be to get caught up in the social aspect of networking, it’s important to stay on track with your objectives and to keep your eyes on the prize.
Don’t Sell – Yet
You may have a product or service to sell, and networking may be a critical part of your sales strategy. Still, you should resist the urge to sell your product or service when you’re out networking. Instead, focus on listening.
When you’re out networking, your goal should be to learn as much as possible about your potential clients and referral sources. This is the best way to figure out how you can become relevant to the people in your network. You should also focus on helping others rather than expecting something in return right away. When you’re out networking, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to exchange value with others. But your main goal should be giving value without expecting anything in return.
Networking Isn’t Just About You
You may be eager to brag about your accomplishments and talk about how great your business is. But you should avoid doing this at all costs. Instead, try to ask as many questions as possible and genuinely be interested in the people you meet. That’s not to say you should be a pushover or that you should avoid talking about yourself. Instead, you should try to focus your questions on your potential clients and referral sources. For example, you might want to ask what challenges your potential clients are facing in their businesses. Or you might want to ask for advice on how to solve a problem or find new customers. You can also ask others what they do, what they like to do in their spare time, and so on.
Ask For What You Want: Referrals, Introductions, And Advice.
At some point, you’ll want to exchange value with the people you meet at networking events. This can be tricky if you don’t know what each person might be able to offer you. Luckily, you can prepare for this by asking for what you want during your networking meetings. This can be as simple as asking for referrals, introductions, or bits of advice. If you ask for referrals early on, you may be able to get leads before you even ask for them. Similarly, if you ask for introductions, you may be able to open new doors for your business. And if you ask for advice, you can get valuable insights and helpful suggestions from people who are likely very knowledgeable and experienced in their fields.
Networking is a critical part of any business strategy. But you can’t just show up to an event and expect leads to start rolling in. You have to do it the right way. That means knowing what you want to get out of your networking meetings, going where your audience is, keeping the objectives at the forefront, and asking for what you want. If you do all these things, you’re sure to have more productive networking meetings. And as a result, you’ll likely have more new clients and a stronger referral network in no time.