7 tips to better networking

Make the most of your networking time by utilizing these tips both before, during and after.

You know that a way to grow your business is to network. According to the Referral Institute, you need to spend between 8 and 20 hours per week networking – whether at group events or one-on-one meetings with prospective clients. That is a lot of time but it’s necessary if you want your business to not only survive, but to thrive.

Now that you’ve chosen which group will be most beneficial you need to have a pocketful of business cards and your elevator speech ready. Even with that, how do you make the most of your time there and how will you make an impression on those individuals you meet.
Here are our tips to making the most of networking to make it pay off in referrals and new business.
  1. Collect information. Yes, you are there to “sell” yourself and your services, but you want to collect information on those you meet as well. Gathering business cards is just as important as handing out your cards. Once you meet someone and get a business card, jot a note on the back to jog your memory once you leave.
  2. Be memorable. While you don’t want to stand out like a sore thumb, you don’t want to blend into the wallpaper, either.
  3. The true essence of networking is to look for opportunities to be of service to others. Yes, you want to be able to sell your goods or services, but when you meet someone ask, “what could I do to help you grow your business?”
  4. There are three people you always want to meet at an event – the host, the person doing the registration and sign-in and the speaker. Speak to the registrar about the event, the agenda, ask for his or her business card. Ask to be introduced to the organizer.
  5. Introduce yourself. If you have the opportunity to introduce yourself to the whole group make certain you have your pitch honed to a concise 25 words or less; make your introduction memorable enough that people think, “I want to know more about him/her.” If there isn’t the whole group intro opportunity make certain you make the rounds of the tables and say hello.
  6. Make small talk. In a networking group, small talk is under-rated and is a great way to build rapport and discover common ground. You do want to be remembered for your business but think about what it would mean to be remembered as the person with whom Company A had a great conversation with.
  7. Don’t leave without saying good-bye. You might have managed to say hello to a majority of the people in the room but if possible, touch base with the host and the speaker and other people you may have connected with earlier.
Networking doesn’t end after the event is over, though. Take the business cards you’ve gathered and make contact with the individuals. Suggest a coffee meeting, send a postcard (emails are nice, but yours could get lost in the flood they likely receive and snail mail is a dying art). Input the information from the business cards into a contact file and follow up with them on a semi-regular basis.
Another helpful tool is using professionally produced on hold messages to keep the lines of communication going while callers are on hold.