Many solo service professionals don’t feel comfortable attending networking events, because it can be intimidating to have to meet new folks en-masse and “work the room”. Perhaps they think that the sole purpose of attending a networking event is to collect a bunch of business cards and get people to buy from you. That is absolutely INCORRECT.
Networking means different things to different people. But, what I have learned over the years is that it can be a profitable marketing strategy for EVERYONE (introverts and extroverts alike) if you follow some simple rules. Here are few tips to consider before attending your next networking event:
- Set your intention before attending the event that your number one goal is create authentic connections with the people you meet. Also, that you will endeavor to learn about them and look for ways to add value to their lives. (Which doesn’t mean selling them a product or a service!)
- Networking isn’t about pushing what you have to offer on others. It’s about sharing the value of what you do. Keep this in mind as you talk about your business. Don’t label yourself as an Acupuncturist, Accountant or Graphic Designer. Rather, talk about the value you offer – the benefits and results clients receive from working with you.
- Look for ways to build connections by establishing common ground and being relatable. Endeavor to find out what you have in common with the entrepreneurs you meet.
- Commit to yourself that you will NOT make assumptions about the professionals you meet (which could limit future opportunities). Instead, appreciate perceived differences and seek to understand them.
- Be aware of different personality styles – not everyone networks the same way. Be open to this fact and meet people where they are.
- Don’t run around the room trying to collect as many business cards as possible. Instead, strive to have as many conversations with fellow business owners as possible. If you would like to continue the conversation later or want to follow-up with the contact for some other reason, THEN ask for their business card. (By the way, don’t hand someone YOUR business card until they ask for it!)
- Be sure to follow-up with all new contacts within 48 hours. (24 hours is preferred). This is good business etiquette, establishes you as a serious business owner and allows you to reconnect with the lead while the meeting is still fresh on their mind.
I attended a networking event hosted by NAWBO San Francisco tonight and because of implementing these tips REALLY found it to be time well spent. I meet a fabulous group of high-caliber businesswomen, was invited to attend another private networking event and am looking forward to continuing a few of the conversations I started. I’m confident that my having attending this event will lead to exciting business opportunities.
I’d love to hear your feedback after you’ve implemented these strategies on your own and how your networking experience my have differed from the past. Also, if you have other tips on effective networking and building relationships, please share those too by leaving a comment below!