Tips for Effective Networking

There are so many networking tips available out there, presuming to tell you how to do just about everything, that it can be easy to fall into total confusion about what makes sense for you.

So – when it comes to networking, let’s keep it really simple. Networking is nothing more than forming relationships, which is the same thing you do when you meet people and make friends. Granted, business networking is done expressly for the purpose of generating business leads and opportunities – but that’s fine as long as everyone involved understands that’s what’s going on.

And many of the same principles apply in business networking as they do in social settings.

Think of it like dating. When you’re on a date – especially a first date – you know (hopefully!) that you don’t want to sit there all night talking about yourself. Expressing interest in the other person not only helps you get to know that person, but it also helps you to come off as more interesting.

Networking-resized-600In business networking, asking questions and finding out about the other person’s business gives you the best opportunity to learn their needs and determine how you can bring them value. It also shows the other person that you’re interested in their needs, rather than just talking about yourself and your organization.

Chances are, of course, you will get the chance to make the case for yourself. How can you be prepared for your shot? One idea is to create a 30-second commercial for yourself and your business (you might want to have a 15-second version ready too, just in case time’s tight). You can base it on your mission or vision statement, and what you believe sets you apart from your competitors.

Create this pitch, know it well, and when you get your chance – you can make the case for yourself succinctly and effectively.

Sure, networking and dating are different in more ways than they’re alike – so let’s not take the comparison too far. But the process of forming relationships with others has some common elements, no matter what kind of relationship we’re talking about. And the best ones are always based on trust, understanding and mutual respect. If you approach networking in that way, you’re bound to get a great deal out of it!

Have a question about business planning, products, or services? Contact Business Development or leave a comment below.

What You Missed at Networking for Business

Recently, SCORE presented an important workshop called Networking for Business. They covered how to build a business through networking, tools for the networker, types of events to attend in order to network, considerations to take when networking, and following up with contacts made at a networking event.

Networking-resized-600Here are some key points within each of those areas to remember when networking:

  • Before attending any networking event, define why you would like to attend it and consider what goals you plan to accomplish by attending.
  • Prepare and practice your introductory speech and keep it at 45 seconds or less. Consider what you are going to talk about that will make you stand out — perhaps you specialize in a certain area. Use what will stick in someone’s mind.
  • While business cards can be handy, all you really need to have on hand at a networking event is something to write on. If you do not have a business card, you can ask those who you are interested in doing business with for theirs.
  • Remember names whenever possible. Sometimes this can be difficult but if you do remember a name, it shows you have a genuine interest in the person you are communicating with.
  • A few types of events to attend include: Business Expos, Chamber of Commerce events, and structured events such as BNI and LeTip meetings.
  • Always be professional when you are networking — keep your mobile devices turned off, be courteous toward others, and get permission to follow up.
  • If you say you are going to follow up, be sure to do it, and do it within a reasonable time period.
  • When following up, you can try for face-to-face meetings and if you have one, ask your connections if you can add them to your email list. Keeping yourself in the head of the people you would like to do business with can help you to close a sale.

Stay on the lookout for future seminars at First Financial – we offer a business seminar each month! If you have any business banking or loan related questions, contact Business Development.