Advanced Networking Techniques
Whatever types of groups you choose to take part in, it is important that you know what you’re going to do with any particular organization before you even start. Networking properly can explode your business, but networking poorly can be a waste of time – or worse, give you a bad reputation.
To be an advanced networker it’s important that you:
* Start With a Clear Plan of Action
Going to events can be stressful, but you can lessen that stress if you go in with a plan of action. Write a one-page plan before any event. Study what the event about and understand the mood of the event. Each event has its own personality, kind of like social networks do. LinkedIn is buttoned up, while Facebook is more casual. Know your event’s personality before you walk through the door.
Practice a few key, interesting talking points that you’ll go to when you need something to say and can’t think on your feet. When you first meet people, focus only on building the relationship and not on what you can get out of them. People can see dishonesty and desperation a mile away. Remember to make everything about them, and nothing about you. It’s just like when you write a sales page. It’s all about your audience. In the case of networking, it’s all about the individual you are speaking to at that very moment.
* Be As Visible As Possible But Don’t Be Obnoxious
If people don’t know who you are, it will be hard for them to remember you when it comes time to recommend you to someone else. A way to be visible is to ensure that you are always helpful at events, talking to different individuals, and making yourself useful. You owe it to yourself to let people know your story. Without knowing you, how are they to know your business? Therefore, be sure to connect with people at every single event you attend.
It can also help to have some sort of special calling card. Some people swear by always wearing their bright green jacket, or red power suit, or purple shoes. Depending on what your niche is, you might even get away with coloring your hair a bright color, or just a strand of hair. Something that helps you stand out from the crowd and be visible is very important.
Some people hand out special business cards made just for in-person events that are useful in nature, such as a ruler or book mark. Others actually give out their free signed and autographed book if that is permitted. Whatever you can do without breaking the rules and seeming to be obnoxious, you should do to get noticed and be remembered.
Also, drink in moderation or, better yet, do not drink alcohol at all while networking.
* Avoid Controversial Topics When Appropriate
The worst thing you can do at any event is talk about certain topics that are not good to discuss in mixed company. Each event is different and requires a different type of behavior. In most cases at business events, the topics off limits are religion, politics and money. Naturally, this rule can be bent depending on the event. Keep your eyes and mind open so that you can avoid making a faux pas.
There may even be other controversial topics that you don’t want to bring up at a particular event. If you’re at an event that is promoting using private label rights (PLR), you don’t want to say something negative about the use of PLR. Understand what is expected at each event and stick to that plan of action. Have something you want to speak about to attendees and don’t deviate too much from that.
There are times when controversy is good, but it’s important that you tread carefully when it comes to that. Perhaps your controversy is really just a funny joke that helps you be remembered.
* Give Freely of Yourself, Your Time and Your Expertise
It is really important to go into networking with a giving attitude. Before you can ever ask anyone that you meet for a favor, you have to do a lot of giving. Try to give at least three times more than you ask for favors so that people don’t run when they see you coming. This often happens to multilevel marketers who are taught to push and push. Networking events are not the place to push, but the place to give.
If people view you as helpful and generous, they’ll be more likely to not only do favors for you when you ask, but also to recommend you to paying customers. It’s important that you give strategically too. If there are people just using you for free advice in your core business area, it’s important to set boundaries. Separate yourself from them in as kind a way as possible. Make excuses and be vague, but move on to other contacts to find connections that want mutually beneficial relationships.
It can be very tricky, but you can be sure that the person who is always asking for freebies without any hope of return isn’t ever going to help you and more than likely other people have the same issue with them. In any case, don’t gossip about the person; just move past them.
Having said that, give freely to your group as a network. Sign up to be a speaker or teach a course in something that demonstrates your expertise. Recruit new members for the group, inviting people that you know who can both gain something from the group, and give something to the group. Volunteer to host events. Do what you can to promote the group; be an important influence to the membership and you will soon be seen as a mover and shaker too.
* Ask for Help but Be Reasonable
It’s important when you ask for advice or help that you approach it correctly. You don’t want to expect freebies from people who make their money doing the thing you have a question about. It’s okay to ask a couple of questions or ask for a bit of advice, but don’t expect free services for the long term. Ask a couple of questions and leave it at that. Always be sure to follow up with a thank you for the help, offering help of your own in return.
You don’t want to be seen as someone who won’t pay for services rendered. So, it is also important that if you find a professional whose services you can use within the group, you hire them. When people see that you are honest, giving, and aren’t a freebie seeker they’ll be more likely to give you important business referrals too.
* Ditch Hidden Motives
Technically, everyone is networking to increase and expand their business, learn something new or move up in their career. But, you need to look through that fact and seek a better reason to network and let go of any hidden motives. Networking will work to open doors for you if you concentrate on the right things like building relationships and not making a sale. Be a resource before you’re a vendor.
Networking is always going to be about the long game and it is something you work on for years to see the biggest results. Everything you do today builds on everything you did yesterday and what you will do tomorrow. Your actions will eventually create a snowball effect that is unbeatable. Eventually, you will be a go-to person within your niche and people will look to you for your expertise.
* Seek to Build Real Relationships with People
First and foremost, networking is about relationships with people. Nothing is more important in life than the people that you know and the people whom you choose to spend time with. As you meet new people in your networking groups, keep track of them by asking for a business card. Ask for some basic personal information about what they do, about their kids, their family, etc.
Write some important facts down about each new person you meet as soon as the event is over on the back of each card, as you remember it. Each time you know that you will talk to them again, read what you wrote to give you some talking points before the meeting. Then, after each new meeting write down any new information to help you remember. People feel important when you remember them. It will be hard to remember them when you are bombarded with so much new information, though, so definitely keep notes.
You can transfer this information to a contact management system (also called a customer relationship management system) such as Contactually as well. It might make it easier and more organized keeping all conversations about each person in one spot and accessible from any computer. Even though these contacts aren’t necessarily customers at this point, finding a way to organize the information is essential.
As you gather the information, if you know that a connection has a birthday, anniversary or other special day, send them a greeting card. Places like SendOutCards make it easy. Send personal notes when you see something they wrote or did that you admire. Send sympathy cards if something bad happens. Sometimes it’s good to ditch email and get out the old pen and paper to send a really personal note or clipping that you think they’ll enjoy for the right occasion.
Reach out and invite some individuals that you want to know better to lunch or choose four or five individuals to meet for a mini-networking event so that you can all get to know each other better. Invite them to a live show, or to a piano bar or something interesting. Send them free tickets to an attraction for a special gift when called for. Reach out to build real relationships and it will pay off exponentially later.
* Never Forget to Follow Up
After any event that you attend and in between events, always follow up with any information you promised you would give someone. In addition, be sure to send a short note about how happy you were to meet someone, sending them your business information again, just in case they did not keep track of you or forgot about you.
A nice note in email or one in a card in snail mail will do great for following up. Consider, again, going the extra mile and sending something through the old-fashioned postal service. Do not add these contacts to your sales lead email list. If they join one of your lists on their own, that is fine. But don’t make assumptions and put them on any automated list without their permission. Make all emails you send them unique and personal.
Be thoughtful to the contacts that you meet and realize that they are there for the long term, not for the one-time sale. If you approach networking as a one-time sales event you’ll burn out super-fast. If you really want to be successful, memorize and follow these tips for successful networking.
What are some of your best networking tips?
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