I don’t know where the misconception slips in but networking events are not sales events. There are some network clubs that give their members sixty seconds to stand up and sell their products or services, but for the large part this is not the case. So what are the do’s and don’ts of networking?Don’t:
- Open a conversation by telling who you are and what you do
- Try and sell anything to anyone
- Hog all the food
- Drink too much
- Look at other people while someone is talking to you
- Forget your business cards
- Talk too much even if the other person shows interest in what you are saying. (There are many people for both you and your contact to meet).
- Decide why you are going in the first place (make a mental list of any issues you might have that could be solved by someone else)
- Arrive early and check out who you would like to meet from all the name cards lying on the reception table (ask the receptionist to hand your card to that person when they arrive -you can also pop it behind their badge with a personal note written on the back of it)
- Eat before going, to avoid hogging the food.
- Ask open questions that show interest in the person you are speaking to
- Look the person you are communicating with in the eyes
- Make a connection with someone, swap cards, agree to an action (as appropriate) and politely move on.
- Introduce people to other people, especially if they seem to be on their own
- Thank the organizer before you leave
Better opening lines:
- “Wow, what did you think of the closing speech?”
- “I don’t believe we have met before…? (Try and leave it to them to answer and tell you their name, this way they will feel in control)
- This is my first time (at this event/place etc) it’s impressive (or not) how about you?
- If someone appears interesting, and you feel a genuine connection, do not turn it into a sales pitch but keep it as a fun conversation focused exercise based upon information gathering. You can do this by asking sensible and interesting questions such as:
- “How’s the recession affecting your business?”
- “What are the biggest challenges your company is facing right now?
- “If you could change any one thing in your business, what would it be?”
- “What motivated you to come to this event on this (add weather description here ie warm and humid – or damp and wet or rainy etc) evening?” This technique subtly brings you to the persons motivations and decision values, meaning also that he or she always had a choice.
These type of open questions invite your contact to open up and share their thoughts and concerns, by doing so you can listen and see how or if you or a friend of yours might be able to help in some way, thereby opening an exchange of value.
The golden rule is to try and always connect on an emotional level – ending with the mutual feeling of ‘that was a nice guy’. This way you can always come back for more and they will very likely introduce you to others.
Have a good week