Many years ago I was invited to attend a networking event. The details were vague but I was told that I will meet many new prospects and be able to tell others about my business. An added bonus was that I would be offered a free lunch.
With great eagerness and hope, I dressed in my best business attire and filled my purse with many business cards.
The event was at a nearby Italian restaurant. Sue*, my contact, greeted me in front of the building. She wore a pin that said BNI Vice President, Chapter 349. I thought to myself, "What was BNI about?"
The details didn't matter to me. I just needed to make a sale.
The restaurant was packed full of business people. I met many smiling faces and heard numerous elevator pitches. I shook many hands and exchanged business cards. All the attendees seemed to know everyone else very well. Everyone was eager mix and mingle with others.
Before the meeting, I heard people talk about not just business but their leisure activities. The conversations were not limited to business. A heard a bell ring to announce the beginning of the meeting. Everyone had an opportunity to give their elevator pitch and one person had a featured presentation. Everyone seemed to enjoy the event.
During the meeting I was told more about BNI and how to join the club. But I wasn't interested in all that. I just needed a sale - I thought leaving my cards would be enough.
After the meeting ended, I left a stack of my cards. Anxious - I eagerly awaited to receive calls from my new contacts.
I failed the first rule of business: put other people first.
Do you know who called me after the meeting? After leaving all of those business cards and shaking all of those hands?
No-one, not even Sue.
And you know why no-one called me? I failed the first rule of business: put other people first.
All I wanted to know is if they were interested in my services, my business, me, me, me, and more of me. I didn't even understand or care about the chit-chat. In my mind all I wanted to do was get in front of my ideal audience.
Don't make the same mistake I did. I failed to understand the value of a community and networking.
Here are some of the things that I wish I did differently.
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How to Network the Right Way
- Have NO expectations when going to a networking event. None. The moment you set yourself up thinking to expect this or that - trust me, you will not get nothing. Well, I take that back -I promise you will feel resentment and frustration when you expect any results.
- Polish up your elevator speech. When someone says, "what do you do?" Your answer needs to be succinct and straight to the point. Make sure your elevator pitch includes the following:
- What you do? (I help business owners succeed with accountability, support and guidance)
- Who you help? (My target population is service-based business owners)
- How do you help others? (I provide my clients direct and specific guidance in addition to worksheets and others resources.)
- Meet and greet everyone. It does not matter if this person is not your ideal person. You are always within three degrees of separation from your ideal client.
- Relationship first, sale second. Get to know someone and ask questions about not just their business needs, but their personal life. People want to deal business with personable people, not sales robots. Stop viewing people as walking sales targets. One of the best ways of building a relationship with someone is asking, “How can I help you today?” Keep an open mind and do not shut out others as possible network allies.
- Listen carefully and take notes. I don’t know about you but I have a poor memory. I forget a lot of little details. One of the things that has helped me is to record a little information about each person I meet. Use the notes function in your cell phone or a CRM (customer relations management) tool to write down information. Salesforce and HubSpot have awesome CRM apps you can download directly to your phone.
- Followup after the meeting. Don't just take a business card, call them or email them. Ask to setup a time to meetup with them again. Don't assume they will call you - people are busy. Make an effort to meet them at a mutually convenient location (and that includes a video conference call).
I hope this helps someone who is new to networking or business. Do you have a suggestion that I missed? I would love to read it in the comment section below.
*false name used to protect the identify of a business associate