Let’s face it. Most folks go to a networking event hoping to close new business. Is that the case with you?
If so, then you need a plan to make this happen. Simply showing up and collecting a few business cards is NOT going to create new money in your business.
Understand, networking is not about “working the room,” your elevator speech or closing a new deal on the spot. It’s about connecting and building relationships. Sure you can engage with prospective clients at an event, but you should also be on the look out for people you can collaborate with, share ideas with, partner with and learn from. The more you focus on building solid relationships and how you can help others, the more profitable your networking efforts will be.
Of course, you still need to approach networking with a strategy in mind. So, first you need to research which networking opportunities are the best fit for you. Don’t just go to an event for the sake of going. Look for events, seminars, conferences, workshops, etc., that cater to your ideal client and/or individuals who could be referral partners or mentors for you.
To help you keep track of your research, I suggest you setup an account with Evernote. It’s completely FREE and you can setup individual Notebooks to keep this information organized and accessible while on the go. Plus it’s easy to update on your computer or your smartphone.
You also might look into Highrise, which is FREE (up to 250 contacts) and will allow you to keep track of your interactions with the people you meet. You can take detailed notes on each conversation and set reminders for yourself so that you remember to reach out to them and stay in regular contact.
Last but not least, you need a follow-up system! Your fortune is in the follow-up! When you’re networking and meet a new person, you’ve established a connection. Your goal is to turn that connection into a mutually beneficial relationship. That means you need to continue the conversation long past the first time you’ve met.
To make sure you do this, don’t unintentionally collect business cards. Develop a system that tells you exactly what to do when you meet a new person. Your system might include:
- Entering the person’s full contact details into your database
- Reviewing their website
- Signing up for their blog and add them to your RSS feed – I suggest using The Old Reader, NewsBlur or Feedly, which will pull all of your feeds into one place that you can read instead of visiting each site individually.
- Connecting with them via social media
- Sending a follow-up email or handwritten note
- Scheduling a follow-up appointment
- Scheduling an appointment on your calendar to check in with them a few weeks or months down the line
Have a specific series of steps to follow will make your networking time more worthwhile and get you better results. Most importantly, you will build stronger relationships.
Keeping all of the information you’ve gathered organized is key to your being able to actually use it! And that is how you turn your networking efforts into dollars for your business. I’d love to hear a quick story about how networking and following-up lead to new business for you! Share your thoughts by leaving a comment on my Facebook page!