If it hasn’t already become clear, I am a massive advocate of networking! There are countless forms of networking, some follow a structured format and are specifically set up for business networking. Other methods include simply meeting in the pub, socialising at the football match and of course there is courting clients over a meal.
Today, though, I’d like purely to focus on structured networking. I am most definitely a seasoned networker now. I have attended hundreds of meetings, presented on the subject at least a couple of dozen times and have been invited to many events to share my experiences of networking. I’ve tried all types of “structured networking” from those that call themselves relaxed and are simply open networking, to those that are extremely formal and demand referrals to the group. The first thing to note is that there’s no “right or wrong” way to network, we all find our favoured way and what works for one, may not work for another.
So let’s get started, 5 tips for becoming a good networker:
1. Stand Out
First thing’s first, you need to stand out, especially if it’s a network where it doesn’t close out specific services. So find a “thing”. In the early days mine was using the introduction to tell random and occasionally amusing facts about my life. I did this for months without telling people what I did other than “marketing”. It generated a laugh, made people aware of who I was and made them want to learn more about my business. Find a thing…especially in your early days as people get to know you. Networkers meet a lot of people, you need to be the ONE person they remember. Maybe I’ll post a blog in the future about some of those amusing facts…well the ones I don’t mind being published online!
2. Tailor your service
It’s highly unlikely you’re going to go networking and win some work worth 10k within one or two networking sessions. You need to be aware of the types of businesses in the room. Whilst you are most likely not pitching to these people, rather to the people they know, it’s important they feel comfortable enough with you to recommend you to their friends, family, clients and colleagues. So take an element of your business you can deliver for less than £100 (I take £100 as it’s usually something people networking could afford without having to think too hard) and make sure you deliver it to the people within the network to the highest possible standard. The key here is showing the people in the network that you’re the best at your job. I utilised this method and very quickly won the trust and several testimonials from within my networking groups.
3. Get Involved
Many structured networking groups allow you the chance to become involved with the organisation of the network. This is a great method for increasing people’s awareness of you far quicker than if you’re just a normal member. Make sure you make the most of the position though…do a good job, raise the profile of the network, contact people regularly. There’s no quicker way of becoming established in a networking group than volunteering for one of the organisational roles.
4. Stick at it
You won’t win business straight away, so stick at it. The whole point of networking is that you build up a network of people and it takes time for them to get to know you and trust you enough to utilise your services and/or recommend you to others. Stick at it. When I began networking seriously, it took me 7 months to win any work from one particular networking group. Ever since then it has provided me with a steady stream of work. Don’t give up if it doesn’t work for you quickly. Instead look at your approach…every form of networking works, the only time it doesn’t is if your approach is wrong.
5. Use other people in the network
In two ways: the first is, surround yourself with the best networkers. See what they do, understand their methods and avoid the grumpy, negative gits because not only will they rub off on you but people will steer clear if you’re stood next to the grumpy ones. Handle this right and you will very quickly become recognised within the groups. It will also expose you to the best people to network with as they will not waste their time with no-hopers.
The second is obvious…use the services of the people within the network. This is quite a simple way of attracting business. Generally speaking people at networking events are keen to help one another, if you utilise the services of one member, they’re quite likely to either use your services or try their hardest to get you a referral.
These are just a few tips, there are tons more, but these are the most obvious essentials. Maybe I’ll post about the advanced methods of networking in the future. Regardless of what level your business or employment is at, only the best networkers make it to the top…it just takes on a different form at each level.
Please feel free to ask questions in the comment section below…especially if you’re nervous about networking as it can be so daunting. We’d love to blog about the fear of networking!