Oftentimes earning a new client or specific sale means developing a business networking relationship – whether it is from a long-term customer or a fresh-faced newbie to your business. Either way, business networking provides your organization with the opportunity to expand your contacts, thereby increasing your chances for making a sale.
Having said that, attending business networking luncheons and events isn’t enough. Keeping this in mind, here are five business networking strategies to make your efforts more profitable.
Pick a Profitable Business Networking Event or Group
Talking to other professionals in your industry will assist you with finding the most lucrative business networking groups for your purposes, such as conferences, trade shows, associations and speakers. Additionally, think of where your potential clients will spend the most time from a business perspective, locate those events or organizations, and become a member. For instance, a writer may want to join their local home based business association to get leads from local startups in need of copywriting materials, or a real estate consultant may want to review franchise groups.
Quality Means More Than Quantity For Business Networking
The largest events may not prove the most profitable and sometimes the most intimate of gatherings garner leads like no other business networking event. Try to avoid groups where the focus is merely on gathering business cards, but rather the creation of new business relationships. If you do find yourself at a business networking gathering where quantity is valued over quality, try and restrict your interactions to only three to five new contacts so that you can really get to know them, and their needs better.
Business Networking is All About First Impressions
There are few things as important as your body language when you first meet someone new, and business networking opportunities are no exception. Do you know what kind of first impression you make? Think about your handshake, smile (or any other facial expressions for that matter), eye contact, speech patterns and clothing choices. Do they exude confidence? Are you approachable?
Focus intently on the other person when meeting for the first time. Can you pronounce their name? What is their eye color? Is there anything about them that you can connect to them that will assist you later in remembering who they are and what kind of business they run? As an example: a man with SLATE eyes called Mike runs a DATING business. Joan in BLUE runs a SWIMMING pool maintenance company.
Perfect Your Business Networking Blurb Beforehand
Can you describe yourself and your business in 30 seconds or less in a memorable fashion that encompasses the majority of what you do? If not, work on your introductory spiel until you do. This one-liner is essential to your profits down the road, and it needs to flow off your tongue effortlessly and incite questions. For instance, “My name is Bonny and I help small business owners increase their profits,” (copywriter) or “My name is Isabelle and I assist new parents in the first few weeks’ of their child’s life” (doula).
This one-liner isn’t quite enough however; you’ll also have to have memorized a short and information-filled answer to the inevitable questions that ensue. Try to include the kinds of results your clients will or have seen after using your product or service. For example, a doula could say, “Every parent gets tired those first few weeks after birth; I make sure everyone is comfortable, healthy and happy by answering questions, providing assistance and medical help where needed, and keeping the home tidy and presentable for visitors.”
Follow Up After All Business Networking Events
For approximately one hour after your business networking meeting, take the time to handwrite a thank you card to each person you met and interacted with for more than a surface conversation. Make sure to include your business card and any pertinent information relevant to your contact. Also advise them that you’ll make contact in the next week or two to meet for an informal lunch or meeting to further discuss any salient points. Then, send out the cards as soon as possible and make a note in your planner to give them a call in a week or two to follow up.
On the follow up call, make it clear that you’d like to talk further in a casual setting – without any mention of sales or profits. This is to get to know your business networking contact better, see what their needs are, and if you’d be able to help them in any way achieve their goals using your product or service. The focus should be on relationship building and nothing else, where possible. By doing this you’ll implant you and your business into several different organizations, with the intent of making contact when either of you need the others’ products or services.