One of the things I enjoy most in my business is the opportunity to build relationships while engaging in networking activities. These may be attending networking events in my local area where my target audience is, or attending live events outside of my local community. How about you? Do you enjoy attending events and meeting other professionals and business owners? While the opportunities to develop these relationships exist, they will not go beyond a ‘nice conversation’ at an event if further steps are not taken. What are these steps?
How to Use Your Resources. Be a Resource
Before we go into what is required to build relationships at networking events, you’ll agree that attending events of any kind uses two of your most valuable resources: time and money. As a small business owner, entrepreneur or solo-professional, your time is money and time spent on one thing is time away from another. Since that’s the case, you cannot afford to waste any of these resources; you must approach networking with a specific goal in mind and a plan to achieve that goal. Let me first dispel the idea that your goal should be to see how many of your business cards you can give out. One of the goals you should have is to build relationships with other professionals or business owners.
To those who are not accustomed to face to face networking it may seem a contradiction to say that rather than going with the idea of getting; go with the mindset of giving. Be a valuable resource to others by being others-focused; use your expertise to help others solve their problems. You do this by taking time to meet people, get to know them, find out what their concerns are and offer assistance.
Dynamic, motivational speaker and author, Bob Burg said, “The successful networkers I know, the ones receiving tons of referrals and feeling truly happy about themselves, continually put the other person’s needs ahead of their own.
Does all of this happen at one event and at a one-time meeting? It could, if you had a lot of time to talk so that you build trust and rapport. The reality is that most times you do not have enough time at a single event to accomplish these goals, so what next?
Follow-Up, Follow-Up, Follow-Up
Follow-up is the most important part of the networking process. When you follow-up it shows that you are interested in building the relationship. An important part of building relationships through networking is to create a Follow-up Schedule. It can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it, but your goal should be to follow-up, preferably within 24 to 48 hours of meeting the new contact. Since not many people do this effectively, you will stand out from the crowd. Another important reason is that the other person will remember you and the conversation you had more easily.
Whether you follow-up by email or telephone, make it easy for the person you’re following up with.
• Remind the person who you are
• State your name, when and where you met
• Hopefully you made a note on the back of their card about something you spoke of. Remind the person of the conversation or of the specific point.
How to Keep the Conversation Going
Here is the part I got stuck on when I first started to attend networking events. What do I say to keep the conversation going in the follow-up call or email? Continuing the conversation may include asking for more information, sharing something you think they’d like, offering some kind of help, or arranging to meet again.
You always want to be authentic. Therefore, if during your initial conversation the other person expressed a concern and you know that you can provide the solution, be transparent and real. Remind the person of the concern they voiced, let them know you had been thinking of them and you believe you can help to solve their problem. If they really want help, they’ll agree to schedule a time to meet with you.
If you’re doing your follow-up using email, all of the foregoing will apply, but you also want to make an extra effort to be warm and friendly. Since the other person is reading only words, without the benefit of seeing your facial expressions and hearing the tone of your voice, it’s important to make a special effort to be warm and friendly.
The goal of follow-up is to build relationships for your mutual benefit. The benefits may not always come to you immediately but don’t give up. Remember that you are being observed by others and you’re building the know, like and trust factor. As you give, you will receive.
What type of events do you like to attend and what’s your favorite method to follow-up? Please leave your comments below.