If you're a business owner, you probably spend quite a lot of your time at networking events. In fact, it may be the main way you try to get new clients. But do you ever feel that you could get more from these meetings? Do you actually get the results from your networking to justify the amount of time you put into it?
If you don't find you get a lot of interest from the people you meet, it may be that you're going about things the wrong way. You may need a new approach.
My own view is that you can't go far wrong if you think of networking more like dating. The two activities have a lot in common ( although, I must admit, I'm relying on distant memory here ). Here are some things you need to think about.
1. What sort of person do you want to meet?
If your answer is " anyone " you risk wasting time talking to a lot of people who just aren't going to be " the one ". You also sound a bit desperate, to be honest. Not everyone is going to be your ideal client. Once you know who that is, you can be more choosy about who you talk to.
2. Where are you likely to meet them?
There are lots of places to meet people, but where will you find your ideal person ? in a club, at evening classes, at the Bingo? Don't just go to the first place you find, pick the event where you know the person you're looking for is most likely to be.
3. Think about joining a dating agency so you can look through details of the other members.
Look at the members list of any group before joining if you can get hold of it ( ask for photographs if possible ). Also, look at the list of attendees before a meeting so you can make a beeline for the people you want to talk to.
4. Accept that it takes time to build a relationship.
Don't expect too much too soon. People will need time to get to know and trust you and, in this case, you're looking for a long term relationship, not a one ? night stand.
5. Think of something interesting to say about yourself.
If someone asks you " What do you do? " don't just say " I'm a Financial Adviser " or " I'm a Consultant " and expect them to swoon. Tell them what you do for people, how you help, the problems you solve. But don't make things up to impress them, you'll be found out sooner or later.
6. Don't spend the whole time talking about yourself.
One secret for getting people to like you is to ask them about themselves. Be a great listener, not a great talker. People love talking about themselves, they don't want to listen to you telling them how wonderful you are. Stop talking before they lose the will to live and ask a question. Prepare some good ones in advance so your mind doesn't go blank. Avoid " Do you come here often? " or " So what line of business are you in? " Try to find something you both have in common.
7. Don't be too pushy on your first date.
Just because someone shows an interest doesn't mean you can bombard them with information about all your products or services. You'll look too needy and that puts people off.
8. People always say they'll ring, they never do.
Sad but true. Don't rely on other people ringing you, make sure you get their number so you can call them. It's much more important to get someone else's business card than to give them your own. It gives you the initiative.
9. Keep your numbers in a little black book.
Set up a contact management system so you don't lose the details of the people you meet. This might just be a card index or it might be sophisticated software. Whatever it is, have a system which you know how to use.
10. Keep in touch.
Do contact them again if you got on well, they want you to really. Call or write, refer back to your conversation and mention something they said. Send them an article about an interest they mentioned, it will show you were listening and you care about them. It's amazing how many people go to networking events, then never follow up with the people they meet. Don't expect " love at first sight ", it takes several contacts before someone is likely to do business with you.
I hope that's given you some ideas. Of course, you still have to remember the basics, such as dressing up a bit and cleaning your teeth, but that's down to you.
And, of course, there is one big difference between networking and dating ? with networking, you're allowed to see lots of people at the same time!
About The Author
Alan Matthews is an experienced trained, coach and speaker specialising in communication skills for business owners. He is author of " Do You Come Here Often? How To Get More Clients By Successful Networking " and " Secrets Of A Professional Speaker " as well as numerous articles and reports, all available from http://www.trainofthought.org.uk.