I’ve had a few emails following on from my last blog post about BNI. That’s great. Some of the questions were a little surprising however, so I felt that I should offer some advice to those who attend different networking events. Here are five golden rules.
1. Be a good scout and arrive prepared!
Find out what the culture is within the group you are going to visit. By knowing what’s expected, you will make a great impression. See if you can identify any of the attendees and if any of them would be on your introductions wish list, perhaps you know a person who could introduce you to that potential contact while you are all in the room together. Bring your business cards and a small notebook so you can write things down as you go. Don’t use those moments after a new introduction to scour the room for your next prospect – write down as much as you can about that chat you’ve just enjoyed and make sure to write down what had been agreed as a follow up.
2. Know what you’re going to say
You know that people will ask you to tell them what you do, so have something interesting to say. You’ll have about 30 seconds to impress or they’ll mentally check-out of the conversation so don’t start telling people what you are – it’s much more interesting to tell them what you do. So in my case I could say:
A) I’m an internet marketing and sales consultant who focuses on systems and service OR
B) I help people make more money in their business and have more fun doing it
Which answer above leaves the door open for more conversation?
3. Respect other people’s time
DON’T BE A BORE OR A STALKER! If you know people in the room that’s great, but avoid them. The point of networking is to make new connections with people. Look out for new faces, read name badges and do not stick like glue to the first person who’s nice to you and follow them around for the night. Remember that everyone is there to make new connections. Establish if you can help the person you’ve met or if they could help you. If they would like to meet, exchange contact details and agree to make contact and arrange a conversation over coffee sometime in the next five working days (Don’t let the grass grow under your feet). This allows you to meet others but also allows them the same opportunity. Like I said, respect their time.
4. Ask about others first
Everybody loves to be asked about themselves and to feel as though you are genuinely interested in them (Which of course you will always be) – nobody likes to hear a person rattle on for ages about who they are or what they do. As a rule of thumb, if you are trying to develop a relationship with a person it starts with you showing them lots of attention and listening rather than talking – think about having two ears and one mouth, use proportionately please.
5. Follow up
If you have met a great contact and think that you could help them and they could help you, please follow up on the items you had agreed to. Your great start could come crashing to a bitter end if you fail to call them when you said you would or by failing to carry out an action that you had promised. That’s why it is really important to take notes and have a system in place. Great things rarely happen accidentally.
Within BNI our members can avail of training and development in all of these areas. This learning can be applied to other networking groups, your own business or even dating (But I wouldn’t recommend the latter). People who get nervous about going into open rooms for networking events are normally suffering from the same type of anxiety that’s brought on by not being prepared. Networking can be great fun and a massive source of dream clients. Before your next event, have a plan, set a target for the people you would like to meet – even if that’s just a number and NO STALKING. Keep moving around the room and be alert for new connections.
As a closing thought, networking should be treated in exactly the same way and any other marketing strategy. You need to have a plan, know the desired results and measure your investment of time, energy or money. It has never been so important to reach out to other local businesses and pull together so plan to visit networking groups and have a plan for what to do once you get there too.
Post by Geoff Kinsella, partner at EzSales.ie