20 Winning Tips From Networking Pros

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We asked the pros to offer their top networking tips, to help entrepreneurs like you get ahead at business and social events. Here are 20 winning networking tips that will enable you to seize great opportunities at your next networking function…

1. Know what you’re looking for. Just like it’s important to know who you are in business (know your brand), it’s equally important to know who your ideal client is. Not just a definition of size of business and geographic location. It should be so specific that you identify your ideal client’s age, gender, marital status, hobbies, lifestyle to the point where you can name her or him. – Romana Mirza, Studio PinPoint

2. Show genuine interest in whomever you’re speaking with at networking functions. Refrain from making it all about you. Don’t start in with a pre-rehearsed sales pitch! Nothing turns people off faster! Ask questions that will generate a 2-way conversation. -Kelly Green, Insider Branding Secrets

3. Have your elevator pitch down pat. You will need to easily, and succinctly deliver a 30 second answer to, “Who are you”, “What do you do?” The elevator pitch should clearly communicate the value you bring to your clients/customers. If you aren’t clear on your mission, no one else will be. -Eileen Schlesier SleeveShirt Consulting

4. Look for two types of people, those everyone is talking to, and those no one is talking to. The one everyone is talking to is likely to be outgoing, social and well connected. When you strike up a conversation, look for common connections. The person by themselves presents a great opportunity too. First, he or she probably feels awkward alone and would welcome the conversation. Also, people feel more comfortable approaching groups than individuals. -Bill Balderaz, Webbed Marketing

5. Bring a friend. Take a wing man who is in a non-competitive position. We both work the room separately and make introductions for each other. When you’re new to the scene, start with event volunteers. They’re generally friendly and informed. Plus, if you share why you are there, they often offer information on who else is in the room you should meet. -Whitney Greer, Brandularity

6. Don’t stand alone. When you don’t know anyone at a networking event, introduce yourself to groups of three or more or someone standing alone. Three is a more casual, less intimate group and thus more receptive to a newcomer. Say something like “you look like a fun group.” -Arden Clise, Clise Etiquette

7. Make your own luck. Go up to the people you want to meet (investors, suppliers, potential partners, etc.) and introduce yourself. Get to know the organizer of the event, as he/she will tend to know the most people. Whatever you do, don’t waste the networking opportunity by seeking out the people you already know well (except to the extent that they can help you with introductions). -Ian Aronovich, Government Auctions

8. Consider all parts of the meeting. There is the meeting before the meeting – so get there early, the meeting within the meeting -sit with people you don’t know, and the meeting after the meeting – stay late if you can, much richness happens after most of the others have gone home. -Stephanie Staples, Your Life Unlimited

9. Keep the conversation light. Most people start giving out detailed answers as to what they do and how they do it which is not a good idea. For instance when someone asks me How I help clients with twitter? I politely tell them there are many ways I do it. Talking about it can take a lot of time. Will you be open to getting together with me over a cup of coffee so I can explain it to you in detail? 7 out of 10 say “Yes” to that. -Sonny Ahuja

10. Approach others. One good technique is to listen to the Q&A at a presentation, then go up to someone who asked a good question and say, I like what you said because…. Another technique is to offer to introduce someone to someone else they wanted to meet. -Shel Horowitz, Green and Profitable

11. Work the room. When an entrepreneur goes to a networking event, his or her main goal is to meet many people. Spend less time with each contact — enough time so that the people can be remembered but not so much that fewer people can become contacts. The entrepreneur can do the follow up work later and connect the dots later. -Prof. Larry George Chiagouris

12. Create connections for others. You should aspire to be THE person others want to meet. You do this by being a Connector. Everybody LOVES the connector. This is the person who is always learning about people, listening to them and figuring out who they can connect them to. -Diane Helbig, Seize This Day Coaching

13. Be a servant leader by asking those you’d like to connect with questions such as: How can I help you?, What’s your biggest challenge right now, maybe there’s someone I know that can help you?, What kinds of customers or accounts are you looking to serve? And, after asking those kinds of questions – that put others needs before your own – follow-up, send referrals, try to make connections for your new found friend. Surprise and delight. -Stephen Wayhart, Brandmill

14. Ask questions. Simply introduce yourself and then starting asking questions. Show sincere interest in others and their business. Ask questions like, “How did you get started? or “Why did you choose this business?” Learn as much as you can about their business. Now here is the key question: “Tell me who is an ideal referral for you?” Get their business card but only give them yours if they ask. Immediately after the networking event, send them a note card that simply says, “It was great meeting you at (the event) and learning more about (XYZ company). If ever I can refer any one to you I certainly will!” -Carlos Rosales, Focal Point Coaching

15. Take notes. If you can always try to get a business card and then write something about them on the card which then allows you to follow up with them later you will be ahead of the game. When you do follow-up if you do it individually and mention something in the conversation you spoke about it puts you on a different level than most others. By the way, this doesn’t have to be a business related something – it might be a kids birthday or other special event thats coming up. -Diane Conkilin, Complete Marketing Systems

16. Quality beats quantity. Whoever leaves with the most business cards loses. Focus on Connectors. Minimize clones; maximize diversity. The one with access to the most information wins. -Elene Cafasso, Enerpace, Inc.

17. Provide value. It is absolutely vital that you provide some immediate value to the other person e.g. referral, resource, recommendation or lead. Follow up quickly and offer another freemium to support the conversation. -Layne Kertamus, NegotiGator

18. Manage your new contacts. One of the techniques I use and highly recommend is using LinkedIn to make the most of new contacts. I add my personal LinkedIn URL to my business cards, and after a networking event–usually the next day–I find my new contacts on LinkedIn and send a connection request with a “nice to meet you” message. It keeps communication open and flowing, and immediately opens me up to their personal networks. -Kristin Warner, FirePath Inc.

19. Stay in touch. Develop a list of people to call weekly, monthly, quarterly just to say how is it going and can I help you. Telephoning is more dreaded than dying, but it is still the best tool. If you collect business cards at a convention or event, call them and tell them thank you for coming even if it was not your event. “Thank you for coming, I know it meant a lot to the sponsor.” -Randall G. Knowles

20. Be sincere all the time. Do not promise anything you not willing to deliver. Differentiate between the doers and givers from talkers and takers. Networking is no quick fix but a longterm commitment to build relationships to establish a sincere bond and receive referrals over and over – rather than just a one time sale. -Gisella Thomas, For You Network

Happy networking!

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