Thou shalt not sell thyself too hard
The secret to successful networking is to be open to offers and not go in with the hard sell as soon as you meet someone. Before someone becomes interested in your business, they’ll need to trust you and that can be achieved by building a relationship. You may not make a ‘sale’ on the day of the event, but you could stay in touch and grow a future business relationship that may last for years.
Thou shalt introduce thyself to the event organizer
They will have the useful contacts and can introduce you to the right people. Ask questions regarding the occasion, who is attending, and who are the best people to talk to. Try and build a rapport with the organizer so they are interested in who you are and what you do.
Thou shalt create a good first impression
Within seconds of meeting someone, we form an opinion which tends to stick. Smile, shake hands firmly, but not aggressively and ask neutral questions to begin with. As the conversation progresses you will sense whether this could be a good contact to network with or not. If the conversation is heading in the right way, ensure you keep it going.
Thou shalt plan ahead
Before you attend any business event, do your research and check who is attending. Then work out who will be useful to help you build your business and make a note of where these people will be, for example, their stand number at an exhibition. Check out profiles on websites and LinkedIn to learn more about people and businesses so you can ask the right questions.
Honor thy conversation
Don’t forget the basics like smiling and making eye contact which will make you much more approachable. If you see someone standing on their own looking awkward introduce yourself, they may be grateful you’ve done this. Ask open-ended questions that don’t require just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, which will keep the conversation flowing. Exude positive energy and try and maintain an enthusiastic interest in what people are talking about, without being too over the top.
Thou shalt not just talk business
Go with the conversation and if someone mentions something they enjoy doing in their leisure time, or a member of their family, pick up on this and steer the conversation in that direction. Networking doesn’t have to be all about business.
Thou shalt help others
Be a connector as well as a connectee. Don’t just network for your own purposes, but be prepared to introduce people to each other if you think they will benefit. This will grow your reputation as a networker who doesn’t just think about their own goals.
Thou shalt follow up
Once you’ve made those new contacts follow up with the ones you’re most interested in. Suggest a coffee or lunch to discuss opportunities if distance isn’t a problem. Just a short email will take care of this. Another way of keeping in touch is by connecting on LinkedIn. Send them a request along with a short message reminding them where you met. Extra points if you follow their business on social media.