Business ideas are never created in a vacuum. You need people to innovate, market your products or services, get reviews, learn industry trends, strike new deals, and have fun with while doing it all. This is why networking is useful, and there are many ways to do it. You can network at networking events and co-working spaces, or even network at freelancer or startup functions. However, the outcome of each, other than your name appearing on the guest list, will entirely depend on your reasons for attendance and how you present yourself. Here are three important rules that you should follow if you want to reap the full benefits of your networking efforts.
1. Set Your Goals
What are you looking forward to achieving through networking? Do you want to generate more business, find suitable partners, or land a local job? Don’t behave like ambitious marketers moving from table to table selling insurance covers or a multilevel marketer keen on recruiting every attendee. Setting a goal will ensure that you focus your interactions towards realizing your key objectives. Assuming you are a freelance Web designer out to sell your services, you don’t have to grab a microphone onstage to start pitching your services. What you should do is to have your cards ready (at this stage, no one is really interested in your impressive portfolio), concentrate on making an impression, and make people like you. Decide beforehand how to initiate, maintain, and end a conversation.
2. Understand Who is in Attendance
Who is attending the function? How are they important to your business? Some professionals such as marketers feel that they qualify for almost any event happening in town, because they always have their products ready. Some even collude with hotel personnel to sneak into functions they haven’t been invited to, for a chance to pitch their products. Is this a good strategy? Absolutely not, since not everyone is interested in a life insurance cover or a mortgage loan. If you are a copywriter, and it is a function being attended by marketers, for example, you might want to attend and share your ideas with marketers. If it is a CEO’s forum, please don’t attend looking like a glass cleaner. In short, dress for the occasion, talk like the participants, and try to fit in.
3. Don’t Sell
Most attendees you will interact with are prospects, no doubt about that. Everyone is keen on growing their businesses. Those searching for new talent will attend cocktails, networking events or parties to broaden their searches. Other than doing the usual introductions and offering a brief description of what you do, resist the temptation of doing a hard sell. Instead, concentrate on creating a positive impression and establishing a long term relationship through networking. Someone might not be interested in whatever you have to offer, but might know someone else who might need your product or service. Don’t bore them with pitches if they are there to have fun or want a decent conversation.
There are many opportunities you can get through networking. However, you must be smart enough to reap the benefits. Create a lasting impression, reach out to the right partners, and your business will head for the skies.