Networking is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to increase your business. Here are 10 tips that will make you memorable among the people you meet. The point of networking is to add people to your network. Savvy networkers know that their best clients arenít always people they meet ó their best leads are people theyíve never met who were referred by a friend.
Develop a strong 60-second commercial. This consists of your positioning statement and something that differentiates you from the competition. Your positioning statement formula looks something like this: Iím [Your name and company] and I provide [list the services you provide] so that [the benefit to your client]. Your positioning statement should be simple, memorable, and repeatable. It should also appear on all of your marketing materials. When you look for something that differentiates you, think of a key service or product that your competitors donít offer. Think of something that will make your potential clientís life so wonderful that they have to know more.
Gain access to your networkís network. You have a circle of people which includes friends, coworkers, business associates, or neighbors ó your network. Each person in your network has a network of their own. When you educate them on what you do and who your potential client is, you are giving them information about your company that they can share with their network.
Listen and ask questions actively. When you are in a networking setting, concentrate on learning about the people you meet. Be engaged and interested. Understand what they do and who their prospective client is. Donít be afraid to ask personal questions such as what city they live in or where they are from. Ask about their families. They arenít just business contacts ó treat them like new friends. Be sure to exchange business cards.
Set goals for each networking event. Many networking events are in the early morning or late evening. You are taking time away from your home, family, and business to participate in these events, do it wisely. A good goal is to meet five new people before you settle in to visit with people you already know. Limit your conversations to six to seven minutes so you can free yourself up to meet other people.
Find reasons to make contact. Once you make new acquaintances, contact them. Donít follow up with them because you want to sell them something, although they may be a potential client. Follow up with them to build a relationship of trust and familiarity. The more often you visit with them, the more they learn about your business and understand what kind of person you are. People are more likely to refer a friend to someone they know and trust. Send them information that they might find interesting such as articles related to their business. Let them know you saw them in the newspaper. Find out what kinds of leads they need. Wish them happy birthday. It doesnít take long to make a quick phone call, leave a friendly voice mail, or send an e-mail.
Follow-up on leads you receive. When the day comes that your new networking buddy sends you a lead, follow up quickly ó no more than 24 hours. Get a name, phone number, and e-mail address. Stop in or call the lead and follow that up with an e-mail. Next, follow up with the person who gave you the lead and tell them how it went. Most of all, provide excellent customer service to your new customer. Good news travels fast but bad new travels at light speed. If you spoil the first lead that you are given, it will probably be your last. Do a great job and you will become the referral of choice for your product or service.
Always carry your business cards. Business cards are the currency of the networking transaction. Some people give promotional items such as pens and mugs but the business card is the standard. They fit nicely in pockets, people put them in their business card holders, and all of your important contact information is available at a glance including e-mail and company website. Donít leave home without them. If you happen to arrive at a networking event without business cards, make sure you get the card of the other person and send information the next day.
Wear your company logo. People remember your company logo far more often than your name or face. Have it embroidered on your clothing. Print it on name tags. Pick up a name tag holder that you can slide your business card into and wear it. Donít stop with apparel ó adorn your vehicle. Put a logo decal on your car and van window. Magnetic signs work great. Even consider license plates with your logo for every member of company.
Be positive. Business isnít always good and everyone knows it. One lady, when asked about how her business is going, always says, ďBusiness is incredible!Ē even if itís incredibly bad. You have to look and feel as if you are the biggest success story in the world even you arenít at the moment. In addition, never say anything bad about your competitors. No one likes to hear negative comments about another business and it only hurts you.
Commit to give more leads than you receive. Look at networking as an opportunity to help someone else build their business ó it is the ultimate act of giving in the business community and it doesnít cost a thing. Something wonderful happens when you approach networking in this manner. You gain the reputation for being caring and interested and business-savvy. The receivers of your kindness feel the need to return the favor by helping you get leads. Something else very interesting happens when you try to give more leads ó youíll find it is almost impossible to stay ahead of the number of leads you give out in time because so many people will be giving you leads because of your kindness.
Carrie Perrien Smith is the owner of Soar with Eagles (www.soarhigher.com), a performance consulting company located in Rogers, Arkansas. She also is a professional speaker who focuses on topics that equip entrepreneurs with skills and ideas that will impact their bottom line.