Networking is a great way to meet people in a "non-selling" setting. So, don't sell. Meet and greet. Ask people about their businesses. Be friendly and relaxed. Enjoy yourself. Get to know people. Above all, do not sell.
If and when someone appears to meet your target criteria, ask for their business card. Then follow up with them later to see if there might be a fit.
Here are some ideas to help you get the most from your networking:
1. Set a time budget each week or month for your networking. Plan to attend a specific number of meetings or events at which you can network. Make sure your other tasks and responsibilities fit around these meetings. It's best to balance networking with your other lead generating activities. This way you can measure the value of your networking leads against the time spent acquiring them.
2. Pick networking opportunities that put you face to face with people most likely to need what you offer. Or try to meet people who can connect you with people who need what you offer. Both are good prospects.
3. Understand why you're there - to begin relationships - not to sell. Networking is the first step in a long dance. Don't rush.
4. Don't give your cards to everyone. Save your money and some trees. Hand out your card only to people who ask for it.
5. Ask people questions. Learn about them and their business. This is how you pre-qualify them. If they meet your target criteria ask for their card. If not, don't.
6. Don't sell yourself. It's okay to tell people what you do. Give your "30 second commercial" but stop after that. You're there to gather information and to meet people, not to sell.
7. People love people who are interested in them. Ask questions, listen and engage people. This is the fastest way to develop rapport with someone. It's also the best way to determine quickly if they're someone you should be doing business with.
8. Have fun, relax and enjoy yourself. People like being around people who are relaxed and having fun.
9. Don't corner people and don't get cornered. Manage your time and conversation so you can meet enough people to justify your time spent networking.
10. Offer referrals. The best way to begin a relationship is by giving someone something - like a referral. It doesn't cost you anything. If they're the kind of person you want to do business with, they'll reciprocate and a valuable, long-tem business relationship could develop.
Networking is a time-honored way of developing business relationships. It can be done in networking groups or clubs. It can be done through Chambers of Commerce. It can be done anywhere you meet people. If you are active in your community or industry, you can easily network. Some people "network" while shopping for groceries!
It all depends on your attitude and your focus. The more people you meet who might need your product or service, the more potential customers you can have.
Kevin Stirtz is a successful entrepreneur, writer, trainer, speaker and mentor. He is a published author of over 150 business articles and he has been featured in local, regional, national and international business publications. He currently writes a marketing column for AllBusiness.com and he is writing his first book, which is due to be published in March of 2006. He can be reached at 1-952-212-4681 or http://www.KevinStirtz.com