Networking is a crucial aspect of business growth. In order to be able to grow, you need to meet new people: potential clients, potential employees, potential business partners.
However, while the idea of networking may sound quite appealing, the reality of it can leave you tongue-tied and a bit embarrassed.
Let’s take a look at six ways you can improve your networking skills with a bit of effort and determination.
There Is More to Networking Than Events
Yes, networking events are a great way to meet new people who share the same interests and goals. But there’s a lot more to it than just attending these mixers. In fact, you’re likely to have a much better success rate when talking to people outside these events.
Instead of focusing on meeting a lot of people and getting your message across to them all, try to be more strategic and varied. Anyone you meet is a new person in your network. The only question is – do you want to pitch them or not?
Know What You Want to Say
For starters, you want to have an outline of a pitch prepared for all kinds of different networking scenarios.
When you meet someone at an event, they already know why you are there, so you can cut out a lot of introductory remarks. When you meet someone through your existing clients, perhaps you need to talk less about yourself, as they already know what you do.
Come up with a segway into your pitch. A question is always a great choice, as you’ll be able to offer a solution to someone’s problem, as opposed to merely outlining your own sales goals.
Choose a Fun Setting
If you know you’re about to talk to someone who might turn into a client, you want to stack the deck in your favor. To that end, always try to choose an environment where both of you will be relaxed and chatty, as opposed to a strict corporate one.
There’s a reason businessmen like to play golf. The combination of fresh air, physical activity, and good company is a great facilitator for collaboration. You can go for a golf simulator as well if there is no good course available nearby. There is a range in price and quality to choose from, so you’ll be able to find an option that fits your budget.
Do Some Research When You Can
When you know you’re about to meet a certain person, try to do a bit of research beforehand. This goes for all scenarios, whether that person works for a company you would like to pitch to, runs their own business, or is simply well-connected.
Get to know their work and business more, and figure out what their struggles might be. Offer concrete solutions and make actionable suggestions. Instead of going for a more general conversation, articulate your suggestions along the lines of “have you thought about.”
You can also research their personal life and just happen to mention you are also a fan of the Cubs, drive a Toyota, or own a cat. Never actually tell them you’ve checked out their private profiles, though.
Know What You Want to Achieve
Set a clear goal for each bout of networking. Do you just want to get on someone’s radar and make a connection, or are you looking to do business with them? Do you need to arrange a future meeting, or are you looking to leave things more open?
Knowing what you are working towards will help you guide the conversation in the right direction. Plus, it will relieve some of the pressure of networking. You’ll be able to focus on establishing a genuine connection rather than trying to get the person to perform a specific action.
Know When to Quit
There is nothing worse than someone pushing their agenda for way longer than they should. If you notice the person you are talking to is starting to lose their focus and their attention is flagging, if they are looking for a way to get rid of you or are just simply not interested in what you have to say, end the conversation politely and move on.
Not everyone will be ready to listen to you, and not everyone will like you, so as long as you are aware of this and can cope, you’ll have a much greater chance of success.
Networking is a very important part of business growth. Hence, learning how to be better at it can help you establish some connections that will be useful down the line.
Most importantly, remember not to be too pushy. Focus on connecting with people as opposed to pushing your agenda, and you’ll see a lot of success over time. The longer you network, the better you will be at it – so practice until it’s perfect.
You may also like: The Ultimate Guide to Successful Business Networking
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