Networking Best Practices

Everyone knows how important it is to network to build your business. But it’s easy to forget how to network effectively. Over time, even the best networkers can end up wasting valuable hours by not following best practices. Launch Workplaces hosts a networking group called Team Network, and their Team Connect facilitator Debbie DeChambeau had these networking tips to share during a recent meeting that serves to remind all of us how to be effective networkers.

Before the Meeting

Make sure you choose your networking events wisely. Spend some time thinking about the exact demographics and psychographics of your ideal customers and referral partners, and then, discover where those people are likely to be gathering. Association meetings are an excellent place to start as well as charity events.

Try to get a list of the people that are attending the meeting ahead of time. Research a few of the best targets and think about open-ended questions you want to ask ahead of time. Open-ended questions like “What’s been on your mind lately?” demonstrate you are a caring person and can provide valuable insights for business research in your market.

When you schedule the networking event in your calendar, don’t forget to schedule follow up time on the back end, typically one to two days afterward. This is a step most people neglect and can cost you future business.

Set an intention or a goal for each meeting. Tell yourself that you won’t leave until you have met three possible prospects and one referral partner, for example.

During the Meeting

If you are too shy to walk up to total strangers, project welcoming body language to let others know you are open to being approached. Put your phone away and don’t hide in the corner or huddle with a buddy.

Networking is not the place to make your sales pitch. Instead, use conversations to find out how you can be of service to others. If you lead with being helpful, you are setting up the building blocks for relationships down the road.

Have a system for distributing and collecting business cards. Use two pockets or two sections of your bag, one for your cards and one for others’ cards. Make notes on the cards or fold one corner down on the cards to remember the hot leads. And don’t be the person that passes out cards as soon as you walk up to someone. Have a real conversation first, and then if warranted or requested, give out your card.

The food and drinks are certainly tempting at networking events, but you are there to meet people and build relationships. It’s challenging to juggle a plate and a wine glass while shaking hands and exchanging cards. Eat first, eat last, or don’t eat at all.

Don’t spend the entire time talking with one person. When you determine a more extended conversation is required, agree to connect separately and move on. If you feel stuck talking to a person and don’t know how to break away, politely thank them for the conversation and say you are going to keep mingling. That’s why you are there. You have goals to meet!

After the Meeting

Using the time you have pre-scheduled, send follow up communications to your best prospects and connect with them on social media platforms. Arrange to meet for coffee or lunch to continue your conversation. Send handwritten notes if you want to stand out.

People do business with others that they know, like and trust. To build confidence, remember to display integrity. If you said you would make an introduction to another person or call for an appointment, do it.

Networking is a proven method for making new business contacts and increasing revenue, but you need to be strategic about it. If you’d like to attend networking events at Launch Workplaces and hone your networking skills, visit us at www.launchworkplaces.com for upcoming dates. To reach Debbie DeChambeau, who helps those responsible for business development create opportunities, check out her podcast at businessinreallife.com.