Don’t be a fool when it comes to networking
Don’t be a fool when it comes to networking
You love your business, right? Well, of course – otherwise, you wouldn’t be doing it, would you?
What can really make networking work for you is letting that passion come across when you are speaking about your “baby” to other business owners. Having a positive attitude is infectious, and you want to surround yourself with ambitious, like-minded people who share a similar passion to you because success breeds success, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, you may come across the doom-mongers out there who seem to have the world on their shoulders and are looking for any reason and justification as to why things aren’t working out for them as they would have hoped! It’ll be the economy or customers just don’t get what they’re offering – it may even be the weather! It may also be their opinion that networking doesn’t work for their type of business, but it’s more than likely down to them.
If that’s your experience with particular networking groups or people you hang around with – it’s time to change. If you don’t, there is a danger that you’ll be brought down the lowest common denominator or at least feel demotivated being around such energy.
I was once told there are 2 types of people: sappers and zappers! It’s the latter that you want to be connected with.
Tell your story
It also occurred to me that at recent networking groups, there is a great opportunity being missed to better engage the audience when you get the chance to do your elevator pitch.
Why not tell a story? Everyone loves a good tale (some might say gossip), but it is what keeps people watching day in, day out, week in and week out, all the soaps on TV and serial dramas.
As business owners, you will all have something to say about you as a person or your business.
So what makes a good story? How about:
- Something that resonates with the audience; that has feeling and an emotional connection?
- Something that enables change in the other person – their thoughts, reactions, responses…
- And, of course, it needs a beginning, middle and end!
The benefits this may bring over your standard business pitch are that you become more memorable, you can stand out from your competitor (because your story is unique to you), people may get to know you better as a person (and people do business with people they know, like and trust) and it can add to your credibility.
There are basically 2 ways to share knowledge: push information out or pull people in with a story.
Are you making an exhibition of yourself?
Building on the topic of introducing yourself to the room…
One thing you do want to do on your networking endeavours is to stand out from the crowd, especially if you are in a group where you may have competitors present. So give it some thought when preparing for a networking meeting.
There are a number of ways you can do this by appealing to your audience’s senses; be it through something visual that you do, maybe something audible, possibly appeal to the sense of touch, not forgetting taste and smell.
Some examples across the spectrum of senses that I have experienced in my years of networking are:
- The use of bras as props!
- Introductions through songs and poems
- Dressing up as a super-hero
- Letting off a fire extinguisher
- Use of a megaphone
- Cake tasting (one of my favourites!)
- Lighting an indoor firework
- Letting off party poppers
- Producing an Italian flag after an England defeat at football (my least favourite!)
One of the best had to be writing an introduction on large cards in a Love Actually style and getting the group to read them out one after the other.
Whatever your product or service, there is bound to be something that will help you during your introductions and/or your marketing in general when you are spreading the word about your business.
Ultimately you are looking for business opportunities
How many referrals did you give to your networking group(s) this week, last month, or ever?
The best incentive to get noticed and to encourage people to do business with you is to bring along leads for your fellow networkers. Whilst it may not be a quid pro quo situation in that you get leads back from those that you gave leads to or that you will get exactly the same amount back as you gave; you will raise your profile as someone who people want to do business with – and you may even get more back than you gave.
Also, think about how to help people refer to you. Spend some time making sure they know the type of client you are looking for, the solution that your particular product or service provides, the sort of questions to ask a prospect to identify the potential need and how to introduce you. These may not be obvious from your introductions or 1-to-1 meetings and could require extra work on your part to make sure your potential referrers are fully briefed.
When referring someone else, one phrase to consider is “What I like about Fred is…” and then you can add some of the benefits that someone would get through doing business.
There are many other ways of making your networking activity work for you. Hopefully, these pointers will make a difference to you.
Paul Green is the founder of The Business Community. He has been an independent business owner since 2003 and loves working with small businesses; in particular family-run businesses. His experience and knowledge of over 25 years and having worked with 100s of business owners, gives you the confidence in his ability to offer business advice, coaching and training. Having experienced the trials and tribulations that face a small business on that entrepreneurial journey, he is passionate about making sure businesses don’t make the same mistakes that he made en route! He is a big believer in collaboration and encourages businesses to work together to grow their businesses; as well as offering help and support to each other for mutual gain.