One of the most powerful ways to meet new customers and/or get referrals for new business is still the old fashioned way – face to face networking. For many, attending a formal networking event – or even a casual meet up – it’s out of their comfort zone…and that’s a good thing. Because when you get out of your comfort zone the magic begins.
Networking does not mean selling – and that is where many entrepreneurs fail. They think they need to promote, promote, promote and hand out dozens of business cards at each networking meeting. Don’t do it! (In fact, you should never hand out your business card unless you’re asked for one.)
Your goal should be to make a connection and begin to build a relationship…and that doesn’t happen over night. Networking is not a one-night stand. It takes time. Here are 10 strategies to help make it easier and more effective to connect – and more importantly, make a long lasting, good impression.
Strategy #1: Be friendly. People do business with people they like and trust. People who smile are more attractive than people who don’t. Smiling sets the tone for others. How often do you smile?
Strategy #2: Project a confident self-image. The way you dress, and that’s everything from your hair to your shoes including your handshake, is an indicator of who you are. Your first impression is what sticks, and unfortunately, it’s not always accurate.
Strategy #3: Eye contact. Look the other person in the eye as you speak. Direct eye contact shows you’re attentive, supportive, truthful, honest. A good rule is to maintain it at least 80% of the time. (There’s nothing worse at a networking event when you’re trying to talk with someone and he keeps looking over your shoulder at who else has entered the room. It does not lead to a good connection.)
Strategy #4: Maintain a positive mental attitude. Do you look for the good in every situation? Do you think it’s partly sunny or partly cloudy? Your positive attitude will breed positive responses and positive results. Being positive will make you more enjoyable to be around.
Strategy #5: Make connections with a single focus – that of simply making the connection. Forget the agenda, whatever it may be. Your first step is always to seek friendship and acceptance…not on making a sale.
Strategy #6: Give value. The strength of relationships is built by giving value to others, not facts about you. Give leads, referrals, and connections that can lead business to others. Be a resource for others, not just another salesperson.
Strategy #7: Be genuinely interested in others. Ask questions so you can get to know other people better. You’re not trying to qualify them for a sale, but you want to learn from them.
Strategy #8: Relax. Notice how you communicate with your good friends. Do you communicate differently with business people? You probably do. Pretend your customers are your best friends. Your conversation will be more relaxed, truthful, and less manipulative.
Strategy #9: Discover what you have in common quickly. Find common ground and you always have something to talk about. Think about the things you love to do, places you’ve traveled, where you went to school, and where you grew up. If you can find a link with the other person, you’ve turned a casual connection into a personal one.
Strategy #10: Stay in touch. This can have more impact and be more valuable than making the initial connection.