Note: This is a 2-part article. This week we will focus on getting the most out of group networking meetings. Next week we will focus on how to conduct effective 1:1 networking meetings.
Smart networking is a must for every business professional. It helps you attract and keep customers. Stay up-to-date in your industry, profession and business. And, provide invaluable opportunities.
Smart networking activities build relationships. When done right, networking uncovers hidden or unknown opportunities. It also provides invaluable insights about a company’s (or person’s) challenges.
What is networking? Networking is a marketing process designed to help you conduct research. Network meetings are not designed for selling. Selling becomes easier and more effective when you’ve taken the time to learn about the person and/or company through networking.
Joining industry, trade, professional and/or paid business networking groups is smart. Some of these groups will meet once or twice a month, while others meet weekly. Some groups have membership fees, while others are free. It’s important to understand the “group rules” before joining.
Remember, your time and money are important. Choose well, then, commit to attending.
Joe decided to join a general business network group. The group met twice per month and only one person per profession attended. However, he failed to attend on a consistent basis. He used the excuse his clients had to talk with him at the same time, instead of scheduling them for a different time. Also, he failed to setup 1:1 meetings. He lack curiosity about others, and wasn’t interested in helping them succeed. After several months, his boss asked him if he was getting anything out of this group. Joe responded, “NO!” There was no commitment.
8 Important Tips to Achieve Results from Group Network Meetings
- Choose one or two groups that resonate with you. Be clear. What is your purpose? Is it to build your business contacts? Is it to have someone to eat lunch with? What do you want or need to get out of it? Are members B2C or B2B, or a mix? Does the group provide referrals (warm introductions to others)? Or, only leads (ideas for cold calls)? How can you help members be successful?
- You have less than 30 seconds to make a positive impression. Dress appropriately and learn how to shake hands. Be prepared with your quick introduction of 20 words or less (review the 5 simple steps in It’s Time to Brag! Business Edition). Remember, people today have very short attention spans. Also, don’t use canned or generic intro’s. These do not differentiate you from others selling similar products or services.
- Keep every conversation simple and on-point. Plan to meet as many people as possible, even if you believe you are an introvert. This is not an opportunity to speak up about political or religious topics. Don’t talk about the benefits of your products or services, unless, someone asks.
- Put away your phone and other electronic distractions. Listening requires paying 100% attention to the person speaking. If you don’t, you’re telling others you don’t value them. A University of Michigan study showed that laptops (and phone apps) are also a distraction. Use paper and pen to jot down notes.
A woman had a new business venture and attended a group network meeting to generate interest. Instead of listening, she spent the meeting responding to her texts and FB postings. This behavior told everyone that she believed she was important and they were not. Needless to say, no one was interested in talking with her. Sadly, It was a lost opportunity for her new business.
- Don’t thrust your biz card in someone’s hand and say “Call me!” Instead, have a short conversation and determine if there is mutual interest to meet and talk further. If you have something specific to discuss, share that with them. That way they are more likely to take your call and respond to your emails.
- Build Your Network One Person at a Time. Group meetings are not designed to build good 1:1 business relationships. These only occur after having longer conversations, over a period of time.
- -Within 24 to 48 hours send an email or call to setup a 1:1 meeting
- -Don’t wait for others to ask you, even if they promised to do so
- -Respond to all requests from others to connect … you can learn something from everyone
- -Schedule meetings within a couple of weeks, preferably face-to-face
- Don’t add people to your email blasts without their permission. Do not become a spammer. Giving you their card is not giving you permission. Honor their, “no.”
- Make a commitment to attend … and honor that commitment. Your actions speak louder than words. We all have those times when we don’t want to go. Instead of falling into the “excuse trap,” show up with a smile and a positive attitude. You will never know what you are going to get out of your network meetings. If you don’t go, you won’t get anything!
Remember, Joe? He was not committed. Use these 8 tips to demonstrate your commitment and watch your networking results improve.
©Jeannette Seibly, 2018
Jeannette Seibly has been recognized as a catalyst and leadership expert for the past 26 years. As an executive coach and speaker, she provides straight talk with dynamic results. Networking can be frustrating and isn’t always an easy process. Like any skill, smart networking requires commitment and practice. To improve your results, grab your copy of “It’s Time to Brag! Business Edition.” Contact Jeannette for a preliminary confidential conversation.