There is no statement more true than, “It’s not what you know, but who you know”. From developing a list of clientele to building a database of competent vendors, any business professional knows the strife and significance of having a reliable list of contacts to rely on.
The first step to attending a networking event is to locate the right one. You can do this numerous ways from attending events at your local Chamber of Commerce to joining professional networking groups such as BNI (Business Networking International) or LeTip. An important aspect to understand when joining a networking group is to join a group that you will enjoy being a part of, not one that just tailors to your business needs. If you find yourself excited to attend these events, you will more than likely see tangible results.
This brings me to the most important rule of attending networking events, which is to never sell yourself to the other people in the room. No one wants to feel like you are only speaking with them to get their business. The true meaning of networking is to have both partners benefit from having a long-term relationship, not just a one-time sale. Your goal while networking is to show as much interest in someone else’s business as they show yours. A great question to ask a new contact is “What are you looking for in a potential client?”. This gives you the opportunity to introduce them to other potential clients you may have met at the event as well as see if your business may overlap with their needs. If that person turns out to be someone you would be interested in connecting with further, tell them about what you are looking for in a client and invite them out for lunch or drinks at a later date. In the end, you will be surprised in the benefit in making a genuine connection with a client.
With that said, there are a few more basic rules you should follow while attending these events. The first is to always bring more business cards than you will need. It is crucial to never run out, as this is the way that someone will look to contact you in the future. In addition, try to follow up with as many connections as possible within the following 2 days of the event. If the event is on a Thursday or Friday, the following week is the best time to follow up. Making a quick phone call to follow up is the preferred method, when feasible.
The final rule, although equally just as essential to your success, is to stay patient and keep moving forward. Your business wasn’t created in a single day, so you can’t expect your network to be. Keep attending events, stay connected, and deliver business when possible. Follow these steps and you will be sure to find success before you know it.
By: Zachary Zolowicz