Tips for more effective business networking

April 6, 2011

Networking can be an intimidating process, but it's a great way to garner new business.

Networking is an important business tool that many people do an average job with at best. Why? They tend to gravitate only to their colleagues and past friends when attending an event.

In order to get the most out of your networking efforts, you need to not only have the desire to network, but also a plan of action.

To help you become better at networking in the business world, you need to put some effort into the process — even if you are uncomfortable with engaging new people. Having a clearly defined plan for networking certainly helps alleviate such discomfort. Here are a few tips to help you overcome your fear of networking and help you put a networking plan in place.

Network genuinely. When attempting to build trust, credibility and business relationships, you need to present yourself in a genuine light. You should only attend networking events if you genuinely wish to help others. If you attend networking events or situations with the intention to sell, you will come off as self-serving and fail to connect with other attendees, wasting your time and theirs in the process.

Define your goals. Do not arbitrarily select a networking event. Before you go anywhere, take a moment to figure out what you are hoping to accomplish through networking. Different networking events have different focuses, like education or database growth. Knowing what aligns with your goals is the key to getting the most out of networking.

Visit multiple groups. Like when buying a car, settling on the first networking group you stumble across is usually unwise. We recommend visiting several groups to get a feel for each group’s unique flavor and to see what they can offer you and you can offer them. Once you find a networking group that works for you, give it your full attention.

Ask open-ended questions. Successful networking hinges upon your ability to ask the people you interact with a series of open-ended questions, as opposed to simple yes/no questions. If you rely solely on yes/no questions, your networking efforts will fail to encourage any sort of meaningful dialogue. Furthermore, an open-ended question conveys more sincere interest in someone.

Understand your business. In order to maximize your networking efforts, you must have a clear understanding of what makes your business unique. These differences, coupled with a concrete understanding of what your competitors offer, are the factors that will most interest the people with whom you network.

Follow up with people. After successfully connecting with someone who might benefit from your business’ products and/or services, you need to follow-up with them through drip marketing campaigns. But don’t just call them and ask, “So, are you ready to do some business together?” Building trust, credibility and brand recognition takes time. By taking this approach, you will not only put more prospects in the sales funnel but also help nurture your future sales.

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Philadelphia and Allentown, providers of professional development and management development courses and information in Philadelphia and Allentown. We would love to connect with you on Facebook as well.

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