I’m a huge fan of networking. I belong to a networking group. I also subscribe to a service that connects me with events in my area—sort of a targeted type of networking. There are some keys to networking.
*Be prepared. Have plenty of business cards with you. It is also good to have some catalogs, brochures, etc., along so you can provide information if someone asks for it.
*Know what you’re going to say. You’ll want to have a line or two ready to share if someone asks what you do. You’ll want to have a 30- to 60-second description ready in case they ask you to tell them more. Practice these things so that they’re natural and on the tip of your tongue.
*Focus on others. Part of the reason you want to have your answers down pat is so that you won’t have to be thinking about it while others are talking. When you meet someone focus on what they have to say. Ask questions. Think about whether or not you already know someone looking for the services/products they offer.
*Consider partnerships. Is the person you’re talking with someone you could partner with? Do your businesses complement one another? Think a little outside the box. You might be surprised at how much business you could send one another’s way.
*Follow up. It doesn’t take much. Send an email expressing your pleasure at meeting the other person. Mention something about their business. Tell them you’ll be glad to share their information with the people you meet who might be interested.
*Keep a file. Keep a business card notebook handy for those business cards you collect. That way when someone says they’re looking for someone to ______________ you can check to see if you’ve met someone in that line. If so, you can share the information.
*Don’t limit your networking to official networking events. I recently noticed a friend’s Facebook post about needing a housekeeper. I asked if she was seriously looking for someone. She was, so I gave her the name and number of someone I know. They’ve struck an agreement. Neither is part of the networking group I’m in. But, this type of networking is great for everyone involved.
Believe it or not, sharing someone else’s information with your customers can be a great way to ensure that you’ll be doing future business with that customer. You will show yourself to be of great value outside of your business expertise.