Although some people enjoy the networking part of their job, many individuals find the prospect of mingling with dozens of people that they do not know ever so slightly stressful. However, there are a number of things that can be done to make sure that business owners and their companies benefit from any networking activities that they take part in.
There are a couple of important items that every serious networker should carry, at all times:
These are the only things that need to be taken to an event. The business cards are pretty self-explanatory. Networkers should always carry pocketfuls of these to hand over to relevant people. A pen is also useful, for jotting down any notable details about people spoken to during the function.
There are also a few things that should definitely not be taken to a networking function, including any form of marketing material. Networking events are not the place to be selling company products or throwing brochures at people. If certain individuals show an interest in what the business does and what services are provided then a time can always be arranged to meet them at a later date.
Deciding who to approach and in what manner can be quite nerve-racking. It can be useful to set goals before arriving at the event. For example, the first time a novice networker attends an event, they can promise themselves that they will speak to two new people. As confidence grows, they can set themselves larger and larger goals.
Having a specific business aim for the night can also be beneficial. For instance, the specific goal might be to meet some potential customers for a new product or the focus might be more on coming into contact with some new suppliers. Having precise aims and goals in mind will help maintain concentration and will also take the new networker’s mind off any nerves they may be experiencing.
It can be difficult to work out whom to approach at an event but if a few simple rules are kept in mind, people new to networking will quickly be able to spot the individuals that may be open to a conversation with them. As a rule, people who have just arrived or are stood apart from the rest of the crowd are usually a pretty good bet. They will be less intimidating to approach than a group and they will be grateful that someone has made the effort to talk to them.
The most important part of the networking process is the follow-up. If an agreement was made to call somebody from an event then it is important that this promise is fulfilled, on the day and at the time that was specified. It is only natural to feel nervous but it is more than likely that they will be happy to have been contacted
It is also good etiquette for the networker to send a short, polite email to all of the relevant contacts that they received business cards from just to let them know that they were glad to meet them, that they enjoyed the chat and to invite them to get in touch, should they ever require their services.
Once a useful contact has been made, it is imperative that the relationship is nurtured. This can be done through sending a company Christmas card once a year, phoning them now and again to see how business is going and by including them in the company newsletter email list. Contacts require regular attention otherwise they will fade away and all networking efforts will have been for nothing.
Business networking can appear overwhelming and fraught with worries and pitfalls for individuals new to the process.