How to be outstanding at networking
There are enough articles floating around on how to network that it seems to be the one subject that is consistently done to death. In fact, being brutally honest, with all these articles touting their top tips on how to network, you can normally reduce them to 30 words or less. Most will tell you:
Do your research, arrive early, don’t just sell,
Make connections, add value where you can,
Prepare your elevator pitch, identify potential customers,
Business cards at the ready, and follow-up afterwards.
BOOM! Business networking summed up in exactly 30 words; we can all go home. And, apart from looking like a short poem, there is definitely some padding in there.
So I won’t bore you with the usual prerequisites for how to network, there are plenty of articles out there that can do it better than I can, so what else do you need to know? Well, maybe it’s not about what you do, maybe it’s about how you do it. So the question isn’t how do you network? It’s how do you stand out?
1. Wear a conversation starter – The human brain works in ways we are years from understanding properly, so why not use that to your advantage. I’m not saying go dressed like a character from Lord of the Rings, but why not wear a hard-to-forget tie, or a brooch that catches people’s attention. You will stand out and people will make a connection between what you wear and what you do.
2. Odd shaped business cards – Why do we prescribe to a standardised business card size that doesn’t differentiate from any of the other hundreds that people get given? Why not try mixing it up and going for something a bit different. As long as you can get the important information on there, does it matter what shape it is? Try speaking with a local print company to see what they can do.
3. Business card scanner – If, like me, you hoard hundreds (possibly thousands) of business cards without acting on them, why not use a business card scanner app to keep track of them. This will allow you to classify them in order of follow-up priority, or extract key information like e-mail addresses, and afford you to be more intelligent with who you contact after the event.
4. Send an e-contact card – Not to replace business cards, sending an e-contact creates an extra touch point for a potential customer. If they see your text, name or number in their phone, chances are they’ll stop and think about you for that extra second. This means that if they want to call you, or know someone they think you can help, they won’t need to search for contact details.
5. Make your pitch stand out – Nice to see you, to see you….. If you know this sentence, point proven. Do something that people make associations with. Have a slogan, be different, and engage your audience. It doesn’t have to be interactive, but it will capture people’s attention. Doing some market research? Why not print a questionnaire and ask people to complete it after your pitch.
6. Take a banner – Check with the organiser first, but most networking sessions allow banners to be put up as it makes the venue seem busier and more professional. When talking to a prospect or doing your elevator pitch, point it out or stand near it so that people make the connection. Try putting it near the front so that when people’s attention drifts it’ll be in their field of vision.
7. Make your follow-up matter – Yes, okay, I mentioned it above, but can you do this better than just an e-mail or ‘linking in’. Why not take a few photos from the event and put together a short mail campaign. Get names, e-mail addresses and one-line of information relevant to the conversation you had with people and use a mail merge field to send something a bit different.
While I joke about business networking in 30 words, these are still valid and valuable tips on what to be familiar with. From any networking event, the main aim is to create opportunities. This may not just be from the people in the room, but the people they talk to afterwards.
Standing out from the crowd helps people form connections about you, your business and how you can help them. The greater this connection, the more often they should think of you as the person to go to, to solve a particular problem.
I hope this article has given you food for thought about the need to be extraordinary at networking events, rather than just ordinary. Otherwise, what’s the point of going?
More about the author:
Becky Lodge is the Business Founder of Little Kanga, a company that provides outsourced sales and marketing services for businesses in the UK.
BA (Hons) and CIM qualified, Becky has 25 years’ business development experience at senior level in the UK and is now using that knowledge to help other businesses grow and become more profitable.
Get in touch: www.littlekanga.co.uk
Phone: 0333 444 0364