Everyone talks about networking to improve business; however I find it to be an overused word and underused strategy by many of the salespeople and business owners I meet at so called “networking events”.
Many people think of networking as going to a business event in search of business opportunities however it is much more than this. It’s a very cost effective way of doing business through referred leads if it is managed correctly.
The “Barrons Business Guide” Dictionary of Business Terms defines networking as –
“making use of professional contacts”
You can break network into two words – “net” and “work”.
Your “net” is made up of the people and businesses you interconnect with
Your “work” is the building and maintenance of your net.
To be effective in your networking you need to have systems.
A “system” is defined as “organization of functionally interactive units for the achievement of a common goal”
Some systems for networking would include –
- A clear strategy for each event/meeting
- A clear profile of the type of prospects you are looking for. Many salespeople don’t have a clear picture of this and tend to say they are interested in anyone and are then condemned to spend their time with the wrong prospects
- Lists of prospects you may want introductions to – be specific
- An “elevator speech” or “value statement”
- List of questions to ask new contacts
- Follow-up contact systems
Let’s look at some of the “sins of networking”.
1. Attending the wrong events –
When I first got into sales I attended every event that was going and eagerly gave away as many of my business cards as I could as I had read somewhere you should give away 5 cards each day. I now believe there are three uses for business cards –
- Free lunch (lucky draw)
- Possible leads – networking events (dubious)
- Get the other persons card (No.1 reason)
2. Talking Too Much –
Let’s face it we love talking about ourselves and our businesses and I know I’m no different to anybody else. I think it was Mark Twain who said “a bore is someone who opens their mouth and puts both feats in it”
Another favorite – “a closed mouth gathers no foot”
Many of us are so busy “waiting to talk” that we are barely listening to the other person. Something I strive to do in these situations is “to be more interested than interesting” which brings me to sin no. 3.
3. Not asking enough questions –
More importantly- enough of the right questions.
The most effective way to build trust and rapport is to ask good questions that connect with who you are having a conversation with.
A question I am often asked is – “what if they don’t ask what we do”?
The law of reciprocity usually kicks in and eventually they will ask, but at the end of the day if nothing else you’ve learnt a lot about them and their business.
I will continue with more “sins of networking” in my next article, in the meantime keep your sinning to a minimum!!
Internalize the Golden Rule of sales that says –
“All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to,
those people they know, like and trust.”
Brett Burgess is a Sales Trainer and Programme Developer for Sales Impact Group.