Remember - networking is about connect - in a meaningful way. You aren't out there looking for another coffee-buddy, you are looking for business contacts and business!
1: always have clean business cards with you. Do not hand out cards that have been straggling at the bottom of your briefcase or in the glove compartment of your car all bent and covered in coffee stains. Have cards on you in a carrying case – not very expensive and it looks professional when you take your cards out of it. Remember, the impression you are presenting at this time is how much you care for your marketing material. That could easily translate to how much you care for and prepare for your clients.
2: Listen. Ask questions about the person. Focus attention on them and genuinely listen to the responses. Maintain eye contact and respond to the feedback in the conversation. Ask for a business card and provide one of yours. Asking a creative question can help you remember the person if you are not good at remembering names. For example...ask about a pet, or favourite restaurant - it gives you an opening for a future conversation or follow up call.
3: Give yourself reminders. Write a note or two on the business cards you are given. This will provide you with something to say or write in follow up communication and help you remember who the card came from and the business associated with the card and person. A reminder could include passing along this new person’s information to someone who you know could use it if you cannot at the moment.
4: Follow up. Have a system in place for follow up. A database with all relevant information for contacting the business owners and a plan to communicate with them over the next few days by phone or email will get the relationship started. Future follow up on news and events can happen both by phone and email or even newsletter offer to continue to build the relationship.
With the ever-changing and ever-challenging business environment that exists today, we need to capitalize on every opportunity to make a contact and start building a relationship. Relationships develop and build trust, you will then get the sale or client signed up. Networking is the perfect way to do this but it will only work if you work the network – meet, ask questions, follow up, be out there!