Do you wince, or cringe, or even feel awkward and uncomfortable when you think about going to face-to-face business networking events? I used to feel like that when I started my career.
Yep, my clients can’t believe I was ever nervous about talking to a stranger about my business. But I was a nervous public speaker when I started my career. How did I get over that? I had help. So, I wanted to share some of those things that could also be helpful to you.
1 – By accident, I found a local business owner who became both a mentor and a friend, so I always had encouragement, and a level-headed, practical mentor to ask for guidance. I met this person by going to city council meetings and just striking up conversations with the people who happened to sit beside me by asking them questions about the topics on the agenda. Then I would ask them “What do you do” to get them talking about themselves. Having a mentor is invaluable.
2 – I was nervous when I would get up and speak at city council meetings where the public was allowed 2 minutes to express their views and ideas. One evening, one of the City Council members caught me as I was leaving a meeting. She said that the idea that I had expressed was a really good one, but she noticed that I was very nervous about talking at the podium. The city council member told me she was a member of Toastmasters and invited me to go to a meeting with her to visit her Toastmasters club. She shared that they help people get over their nervousness about speaking to others, and they do it in a very friendly way. I went, and I liked the people in her club and ended up joining. The Toastmasters program really helped me become a confident public speaker.
MY SECRET STRATEGY TO STRESS-FREE NETWORKING
3 – I learned from my mentor how to network at face-to-face networking events in a way that makes it very comfortable, and that is you do NOT have to impress anyone or feel like you have to put on a dog and pony show.
The SECRET to being a great networker is to BE INTERESTED in the other person instead of trying to BE INTERESTING to them.
When you meet someone for the first time, just ask them a series of questions about themselves. Here’s an example if Doug was meeting me for the first time:
Me – Hi Doug, what do you do?
Doug – Hi Sandra, I own a landscaping business.
Me – How long have you been doing that?
Doug – I started in 1990s, so almost 30 years now.
Me – That’s a long time so you must enjoy what you do. What do you like best about it?
Doug – I enjoy working outside of course, but I really enjoy when one of my property owners wants to redo their landscaping and I get to help them design it and my crew installs it and it looks like a whole new place.
Me – That sounds like it would be rewarding, and fun. So, if I were to refer you to someone, what type of person would you say is your ideal client?
Doug – Well I work on both residential and business properties, so someone who is unhappy with their current landscape service, or mentions they are looking at changing up the landscape pretty soon to add some new trees or plants.
Me – Okay great, may I have a business card so I can make note of that? Tip: Be sure and hand them YOUR business card in exchange for theirs.
And guess what should happen next?
Right, they should reciprocate by asking ME about MY BUSINESS so we both feel like we know each other a bit.
Sometimes a business owner will always send their sales reps to networking events, but you need to be talking to the owner who can make a buying / hiring decision, so get to know the rep some and then ask them for a referral introduction to the owner of the company they work for so you can set up a meeting at their office with the owner.
End off by saying, it was good to meet you and I hope to see you again at our next event. Write important points from the meetup on his business card before engaging the next person
Make it a comfortable casual conversation, no impressive show required. That way, it will be fun and educational instead of terrifying. Then move onto meet the next person, rinse and repeat. By the end of the event, you’ll have a whole bunch of new friends who feel like they have gotten to know you a bit.
Relationship marketing requires follow up: You have a stack of business cards from the event. Send the decision makers a note or a card saying how nice it was to meet them. Refer to a few points in the conversation you had with them. (You know, the notes you scribbled on their business card). Reiterate that you hope to see them again at the next networking event. Don’t forget Marketing Rule 101 – put your business card in with the note.
Right before you leave for the next business networking event, review your notes on the stack of cards from the last event. At the event, seek them out and ask them how business is going and weave in the points from the first meetup. (“Hi Doug, have you done any interesting landscaping jobs recently?”) Continue the conversation to keep building the relationship, but also go meet more new people.
I sincerely hope this helps you.
#businessnetworking #relationship marketing
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