Face to face networking can be extremely advantageous or detrimental to you and your business. Read on to learn to best strategies for making an impression and generating business through face to face networking.
When you discover that, aside from meeting people, networking includes exchanging referrals, forming strategic alliances, making and getting introductions, providing and getting recommendations and establishing friendships, you’ll want to network much more often.
Get the most from a face to face networking event by using this checklist as a guide:
1. Use nice looking pens as an easy way to convey a professional approach to business networking. Bring a second pen to offer another person in case they don’t have one. Your spare will come in handy if the other one runs out of ink.
2. Make sure that you bring enough business cards to hand out. Keep your cards separate from the ones that you collect. I usually put mine in one pant pocket and keep the ones that I receive in the other.
3. Bring breath mints. Don’t use gum, as chewing can make you look unprofessional.
4. Bring a clear plastic name tag sleeve, with a pin. Many events have you fill out a sticky tag at the door. It can curl at the edges and most of the time ends up on the floor. Place the sticky name tag on a blank piece of paper and then place it in your sleeve, or better yet bring one pre-made. It will also make you stand out in the crowd. I suggest something simple, and printed. Wear the tag on your right side, so people can see it easily when they shake your hand.
5. Bring a small notepad that you can tuck in a pocket, and use it for any extended notes about a conversation. Sheets from your notepad can also be used to write your personal information, should you run out of business cards!
6. Know what you will say ahead of time. Have your 30 Second Commercials rehearsed; one commercial for each type of person that you are likely to introduce yourself to. For example, a business owner may be interested in different aspects of your services than a non-business owner. A well thought out response to the frequent question: “So, what is it that you do?” is a big plus. Your “commercial” should be memorable and meaningful; it should grab the listener’s attention and leave them wanting to know more. Use numbers in your message. For example, “we work in four areas…” or “we address the top four concerns about sales for people in this economy…” Numbers grab people’s attention. Use specific phrases in your verbal logo that demonstrate the exact results you can generate. Tie what you do to time or money, or other areas that will trigger an emotional response. Describe needs that you satisfy. Your message is not about you; it’s about what you do for others. Provide a description of the types of people or businesses you work with. This provides immediate relatable information for the person you are speaking to. The odds are much higher that they can become a referral source or connect you with complimentary professionals if you paint a clear and memorable picture for them.
7. Don’t start selling right away. Ask questions instead. Keep an inventory of “opening questions,” “get to know you questions,” small talk topics, current events, etc. These could be jotted down in your notepad as reminders. An opening question might be “do you find these meetings helpful to your business?” or “have you been to this networking event before?” or “what brought you here?” Some get to know you questions might include “did you grow up in this town?” or “what do you do outside of work?” Other good questions include “what is a good referral for you?” or “how would I know if I found someone who could use your services?” Other topics include current affairs, movies, bestselling books, and industry trends.
8. Arrive early so that you can introduce yourself to the host and tell them you are new and would be really grateful if they could introduce you to a few people. Depending on the number of introductions you get, doing this one thing can completely occupy the entire time at the event with the best possible contact. The host will seek out for you those people that make the most sense for you to connect with.
9. Ask questions and listen closely to the answers. This is one of the most valuable skills you want to develop. You can’t go wrong with Who, What, When, Where and Why questions. The answer to each of these provides a lot of information about what your new contact does and makes it easier for you to refer business to them and provide added value in the future (i.e. invite to a networking event, send interesting information or articles, make an important introduction…etc…)
10. As a professional courtesy, ask them if it’s OK to write on their business card. Jot down the name of the event, the date and one or two pertinent things that you want to recall from the conversation. If they are interested in hearing from you again, including receiving your newsletter then indicate that on their card as well.
11. Act like a host, not like a guest. A host is much more active and is focused on doing things for others. If you want to learn more about how to act like a host, volunteer as a greeter or help at the registration table at other events.
12. Carry a few pre-stamped postcards to send immediate follow up hand written notes; perhaps to people that you want to make a special impression on. You can fill out one or two during a short break, or even in the cab on the way home. Drop them off in the mail as soon as possible. Make the note friendly yet short, like “It was a pleasure meeting you at the
13. Enter information from all their cards into your CRM system (i.e. ACT, Saleslogix, Salesforce.com). Follow up with email or phone call as soon as possible. Don’t just enter their contact information, but remember to enter notes about them as well; these might include people you know in common, interests, other events, as well as any needs that you can help them with down the road. Schedule a follow up “stay in touch” phone call in the next 30 days or so as a reminder. Include personal info about children, pets, vacations, etc.
14. Keep three-ring binders handy containing clear business card insert sheets. File the cards away for future reference. From time to time, I will thumb through my binders and make a note to call or email someone. It’s another quick reference follow-up tool.
15. Create reasons to re-connect with the people you meet. Invite them to parties and networking events. When you call, let them know about great networking events they should attend. Maybe you can go together and use that as a way to deepen your relationship with that person. Debrief with them afterwards. Also, provide introductions. If you said “I know someone who. . .” put a call in to the person, suggesting a 3-way lunch. If you mentioned that you read an article, make a copy, attach a note, and pop it in the mail. Build credibility using the “what goes around comes around” philosophy, so that people will refer their clients to you in return.