A local non-profit asked me to speak before a group of new micro-enterprise graduates on networking skills essentials. My presentation began with what I consider to be 4 Keys of Successful Face-to-Face Networking:
1. THE RULE OF SEVEN
There’s a saying that someone has to see, hear or in some way have an interaction with you or your business at least 7 times before committing to a working relationship. Curious to test this theory I decided to track my interactions with a couple of my clients. Thinking back, I discovered that two of my biggest clients, came in contact with me (or heard my name, etc.) 7 times before signing a contract.
2. WE DO BUSINESS WITH PEOPLE WE LIKE AND TRUST
Put yourself in the networking prospect or potential clients place. Would you do business with someone with whom you did not feel comfortable, either intellectually or professionally? Would you hire you? Contemplate your answer. If the answer is no, think about the why:
• Did you find something in common (business or personal)?
• Did you try too hard or were you too much of a hard sell?
• Did you give the other person time to talk?
• Did you listen?
• When asked a question about your business, were you clear and to the point?
3. ESTABLISH YOUR EXPERTISE
Use the opportunity to establish your expertise at a workshop or seminar discussing a topic where you may already have a good grasp of the material. Ask intelligent questions (even if you already know the answer) and make well informed comments based on the topic. You will find that people will make it a point to come up to compliment your obvious breadth of knowledge and will ultimately ask for your business card. This opens the channel of communication for you to begin a good business relationship.
4. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
This is one of the most important principles of business ownership – period! If you do not know your market or audience you cannot understand your prospective clients and, therefore, you cannot add value.
In a face-to-face networking environment, getting to know your audience is determined by the information that is available all around you during the event.
• What type of event are you attending (business afterhours, non-profit fundraiser, etc.)?
• Who is in attendance (i.e., women business owners, International business people, local trades people)?
• If engaged in conversation, what is the other person saying about themselves or their business?
• Watch their body language. Are they leaning in as you speak? Are they looking elsewhere?
Seek out opportunities to involve yourself in networking events, etc., which may help you keep yourself first in the potential clients’ mind!
Remember that you can use almost any daily interaction as a networking opportunity. Understanding what you expect to get out of the interaction and keeping the other person’s business needs in mind will help you in successful face-to-face networking.