When was the last time you left a networking event crushed that you’d just wasted time, knowing you walked away with nothing to show for the last three hours?
As business owners, our most valuable resource is time. We never seem to have enough of it. Every hour is precious. With that said, how can we expect to be successful when we’re wasting what treasured time we do have?
We can’t, that’s how. If we want to be successful, we must be wise with our time—every hour of it. Time wasted at fruitless networking events should be no exception.
So, where do we start to ensure we make the most of our networking time?
Let’s begin with four favorite secrets for networking the right way. Follow these tips, and I can confidently tell you that you’ll be coming away from your next event with more leads, stronger relationships and maybe even a customer or two.
Identify which networking events are the best for you
Seems simple enough, right? But, as the event invites pile up, colleagues and friends ask you to attend upcoming seminars, and as your email invitations pour in, the list of possible networking events seems never-ending, making it nearly impossible—or at least increasingly overwhelming—to take the time to evaluate which one will be the most effective for you. So, we take the easy way out and just say yes to whatever will fit on our schedule. Big mistake. In the long run, this is going to cost you huge amounts of wasted time.
Instead, let’s take a moment to do three things:
- Get real clear on your brand purpose. When you understand what you want your brand to be known for, what your purpose for being in business is, the rest comes easily, and aligning yourself with the right events will be a breeze.
- Evaluate your goals. What business or strategic goals have you set this year? In addition, take the time to set goals for the events you are (or will be) attending. Do you want to build your affiliate program, meet influential individuals, or find new customers? Which events align with these goals?
- Understand your audience. Who are you looking to network with? Who would be beneficial to connect with to assist you in reaching your goals? Who is most likely to be interested in the services you provide?
Tell the world who you want to help
Let’s make this really easy. The next time you’re at a networking event (hopefully a good one, if you followed the previous tip) avoid the urge to be everything for everyone. If you have brand clarity, and have identified your target audience, you already know that your services aren’t perfect for everybody. But, they are perfect for the perfect audience or individual. So, who is that individual? Make it clear right up front, as you begin to meet new people and network, what your ideal client looks like and who you are hoping to help. If it isn’t the individual you’re talking with, you just saved each other some time. If you have done a good job of describing this individual to them though, there is a good chance they know exactly who they want to send your way who is a good fit. Keep the connections flowing.
Close leads & build relationships—don’t just collect business cards
This secret seems like it’d be the toughest of them all, but, it is actually quite simple.
Listening builds trust and trust fosters relationships. During a conversation, the individual who talks the least has the most control. Listening can uncover key pieces of information that can guide your conversation, questions, pitches, and follow-up. If you want to confidently walk away from your conversations with strong bonds that can easily lead to a new customer or referring partner, listen, and ask great questions.
Great leads, relationships cultivated…now what?
I see too many business owners fall victim to this last mistake. Since time is so limited, we’ll leave events with powerful new contacts and leads, which we turn around and do nothing with. The next time you’re adding a networking event to your calendar, pencil in 30 minutes the following day for follow up. Be sure to jot down some quick notes at the event to ensure you remember the details of your conversation and the best follow up for each new lead.
Building out an automated campaign in Infusionsoft to enroll your networking contacts in can save tons of time and still allow a more personalized touch that will continue to nurture leads through the decision-making process.
Take these four networking secrets and implement them this week. The time spent upfront will be well worth the time saved from attending valueless events in the future.
Chris Smith is a fifth generation native of Arizona. His family arrived in Arizona in 1877 and has farmed, ranched and rodeoed for each of those generations. Smith comes from a lineage of entrepreneurs and small business owners and has been a part of the growth of businesses for many years. He is a storyteller at heart and realized the impact of powerful stories at a young age. Smith is passionate about helping business owners gain clarity around their stories so that they can attain real success and sustainable growth. In 2015, after formulating and implementing an influential methodology for storytelling that brought significant results to numerous companies, he launched The Campfire Effect.