Attending networking groups and collecting business cards alone is not enough to be successful at networking, especially if you are not networking with the right people – making friends, will not necessarily grow your business – unless of course you are making friends with the right people!
If you want to be successful at networking, there are three key groups of people you should be targeting and networking with:
- Your ideal clients
- People who know individuals at your ideal clients
- Individuals who do business with your ideal clients
Tip 1: Target Market
First you need to determine your target market. Once you have answered that question, you need to understand:
- What are the organisational challenges
- What are the organisational goals
And what solutions does your business offer that can support them?
Tip 2: Target Individuals
In better understanding who your target market is and what solutions you can offer, you need to determine:
- Who are the key individuals within the target organisations you need to make contact with?
- How do you make contact with them?
- How can your business support them in achieving their strategic objectives?
Tip 3: Making contact
The most successful way of networking is through utilising your existing network – given that you will have testimonials and reference points as testament to your service – use your existing clients as the cornerstone of your activity. Take the time to really consider who in your existing network can promote your service to prospective clients you are keen to do business with and invest some time in meeting with these clients!
Tip 4: Online and offline
A combination of both online and offline activity is important from a networking point of view.
Online: Online networking has exploded in the last 5 years. LinkedIn is a free professional online networking tool – if you don’t have a profile – create one and fast!
Offline: What potential groups and forums are your existing and potential client’s part of – join them! Also consider, what groups may have direct influence over your potential client group and get networking with them to increase your chances of referral.
Now you have your strategy in place, it is time to….
Tip 5: Perfect your pitch!
No matter who you are networking with, people love a good story! How did you start in this line of business and what brought you into it? What can you offer that no one else can? Creating a memorable story will create a memorable impression on others. Perfect it and be positive.
Tip 6: Develop your contacts
Focus on the quality of your contacts – is there mutual benefit – if not move on to the next one. You will have a much better chance of developing contacts and connecting with people who have similar interests to you.
Tip 7: Become an expert!
If you have a skill, write about it! Get it published online – reference content is really important when networking – you have a place to direct the people you have met and how your solutions might benefit them and their business and the people they know.
Tip 8: First impressions
When you meet new contacts, listen to them. By actively listening, you will become interested in the person you want to connect with – remember your initial planning – you want to connect with your target clients and through listening you will be able to better understand their challenges and organisational objectives.
Tip 9: Uncover their Needs
Once you have made your first positive impression and you have developed a sense of trust – ask lots of questions – what are their personal needs and goals and what do they aspire to – get to know them.
Tip 10: Can I help?
Once you have uncovered a perceived need, offer your help – it doesn’t matter if they decline this time around – the fact that you have offered will always be appreciated and actually, they will be more likely to help you in return.
Finally, remember networking is an investment, so once you have begun to make these all important contacts, keep in touch and follow up, and if you promise to deliver on an action, make sure you do it!
Good luck and happy networking!