What does networking mean to you? Take a quick moment to see what the first three words are that spring into your mind when you hear the term – got them? Right, lets see how you did then.
A good place to start is what networking is not – it’s not about selling; if you try to sell you will get push-back. You can build new relationships, nurture existing ones, and promote what you do at the appropriate moment, but it’s not a place to sell.
It is important that you realise this in order to manage your own expectations. Remember that people buy people before they buy the underlying product or service, and so you have to cross the first hurdle before you can try to deal with the second one.
Networking is the “glue” in your marketing mix. It will help you sustain interest by creating your marketing collateral and activity – PR, Advertising, social media activity, talks, elevator pitches – and sustain interest. It will also keep you in your audience’s mind until they are ready either to a) buy from you or b) recommend you to someone else who needs what you can offer. Then and only then can you start the sales process, which we have talked about earlier.
For a typical consultant, around 70% of your business development time will be spent making contacts, establishing rapport, and building empathy and trust. Only 20% will be proposal-related, and 10% negotiating and closing. So the networking piece is an important component.
In support of that, here are my top 5 tips for successful networking:
- Try several events until you find the one that works best for you, and go several times – there are no short cuts and you need to get known, which takes time.
- Do not just latch on to the one person in the room whom you recognise – make some new contacts.
- Let them talk about their business first – you will get your chance.
- Think about how you can help them, even if there is no immediate business in it for you.
- If you promise to do something, do make sure you follow-up.
Oh, and don’t forget to smile and look like you are enjoying it!
I encourage you to look at the Gatwick Diamond networking group. The website will give you a pretty good idea of what an organised networking group is all about.
Next time we will look at what I consider to be the top 10 habits of successful consultants – in the meantime, keep networking!