By Diane Helbig
Business networking is one of the most important parts of the sales process. Connecting with other professionals who can help you grow your business can make all the difference. There are techniques that work wonders whether you are networking on, or off, line.
The first thing to remember is that networking is not about making a sale. Rather, it is about building relationships with people who may, or may not, need what you have to sell. Too often people approach networking events with the sole purpose of leaving with business. These are the people no one wants to talk to. So, the outcome is the exact opposite of what they are trying to accomplish.
When we think about relationship building we see networking through a different lens and it takes on an easier feel; the process changes. Instead of talking about your company, product, or service, focus your attention on the other person. It’s like dating; you want to find out as much about the other person as possible. This discovery helps you determine whether they are someone you’d like to continue getting to know. Are they someone who might be a good referral partner, resource, or client? The only way you fi nd out is to focus on them.
The other thing to remember is that like dating, networking takes time. There are no instant hits or sales. You most likely aren’t going to meet someone and instantly start receiving referrals or business. Trust must be built.
Try this 3 step process the next time you are networking at an event or on a social media site and see how it works out.
What do you want to accomplish from the interaction? Think about what your goal is. This helps you determine where to go, what to ask, who to engage with. When we have an idea of what we want the outcome to be, we can then identify how to proceed in order to achieve it.
Start conversations with people. Whether you are at an event or online, how can you start and continue a conversation? What would you like to know about someone else? Ask open ended questions so that a conversation can proceed. Really listen – don’t focus on the next question you want to ask. When you are present and show genuine interest in someone, they will respond in kind. If you find that the other person is not connecting with you, move on. You’ve just learned something really valuable! Better now than after you’ve started a business relationship that is difficult.
3. Follow up
This is one of those places where we tend to drop off. We start a dialogue, leave, and never re-engage. Then we wonder why that person doesn’t refer us or do business with us! It’s because we haven’t pursued the relationship. We haven’t shown real interest in them.
So, create a system to ensure you follow up. Write a note telling them you enjoyed meeting them. Call them to schedule coffee. Send them an article or link to something they might find interesting. Whatever you do, take action! Don’t leave it up to them.
Notice that I never said anything about telling them about your product or service. I didn’t mention sharing a story, your rate sheet, literature, or even handing them your business card. That’s because it’s not about you; it’s about them. If you want to achieve networking success, turn your attention around. You’ll be glad you did.
Copyright© 2013 Seize is Day Coaching
Diane Helbig is an internationally recognized business and leadership development coach, author, speaker, and radio show host. As a certified, professional coach, president of Seize This Day Coaching, Diane helps businesses and organizations operate more constructively and profitably.
Diane is the author of Lemonade Stand Selling, and the host of Accelerate Your Business Growth Radio show. She is also a Service Provider for Constant Contact.
Diane is the chairperson of the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce as well as a COSE board member.
Contact Diane Helbig at (216) 534-2030