Networking Necessities, Niceties, and No-Nos
If networking is part of your marketing strategy mix, and for many if not most of us it should be, are you really good at it or is it something you do because you’ve been told that you should do it – like I just did? If you are selling a commodity product, you may not consider networking as an important element of your marketing strategy. Things, after all, should pretty much sell themselves if they are useful and provide clear benefits to the buyer, right? Well, maybe… It might depend on the kind of things you are selling.
Food storage bowls come to mind. You wouldn’t normally think of increasing your sales of these via networking as an important element of your marketing strategy.
But even with the Internet my spouse had a heck of a time finding some help selecting new bowls until I met someone at a networking event who sold them. How about auto insurance? Sure you can buy it over the phone or the Internet if you don’t believe in the value that an agent you know, like and trust can add to your purchase. Having an accident, of course, can change your point of view on this and insurance agents who network know this to be a fact.
I’m a believer in networking because it works for me and for a great many of my clients. The Networking Tips topic in my monthly newsletter is one of the most popular sections. But you have to do networking right if it is going to work for you. So here are some tips on doing it right.
The first necessity is a positive attitude. If you dread networking activities it is going to show. You are going to be more of a wallflower than a winner, you are less likely to meet as many people as you could and the impressions you make may not be stellar. The next necessity is a set of goals. How many new people do you want to meet at a networking event? What kinds of people do you want to meet? These goals will help you to select the right networking events. If you sell garden hoses, for example, a home and garden networking event will be much more productive for you than a meeting of condo owners where gardening is done by the association’s hired help.
Once you have the necessities covered, it’s time to consider some niceties. Wear a name badge so that people know who you are when you come up to them to ask them what business they are in. Invest in a permanent badge with your company logo on it and wear it on your upper right side to make it easy for people to read as you approach to shake hands. That way you won’t spend your time wrestling with a generic paper badge that will dislodge itself several times during an event. And be confident but considerate when shaking hands. No one likes to have their hand crushed so don’t try to show your dominance of others by doing that to them.
This list could get pretty long but here are the top first few. Mostly talking coupled with little listening is a no-no. How will you find out how you might be able to help someone if you don’t find out what they need? And why waste your own time talking to someone who might never need what you offer. Don’t interrupt an ongoing conversation between others. It’s rude. Wait for your opening while listening to the conversation. You never know – you might learn something! Don’t monopolize. A networking event is not the place to present your entire company and product or services story. It is a time to establish enough rapport so that you can arrange a meeting at a later date given that it makes sense for both parties.
Photo credit: Phoenix Lotus Productions, APACC Mega-Mixer.
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