I hope you all enjoyed the Super moon last evening!
Part of my job as Managing Partner is to be out and about in the business community, shaking hands and telling people about the great things going on at Withum. Networking is an important aspect of building our pipeline of new business opportunities. Many of us have client and referral source relationships spanning over 25 years, having started with a fortuitous meeting and handshake at a local event or business dinner. While we are in the midst of ‘marketing busy season’ when events and conferences and networking dinners are filling up our calendars, I thought I’d share a Top 10 Networking Tips list I recently received from a colleague; it’s worth a read:
- Get in the right state, not “in a right state.”
Keep in mind that you want to gain some value and benefit from the time you are committing to attending the networking event. You’ll need to look friendly and relaxed – versus panicky and nervous – if you want people to be comfortable talking to you.
- You will be more interesting if you are more interested.
We have two ears and one mouth so we should aim to listen for twice as long as we speak. The people you meet will be more comfortable talking about themselves than listening to you.
- Networking is about building relationships not about ‘getting work’.
People buy professional services from people they know, like and trust. You’re unlikely to meet someone who just happens to need your services that day. The magic happens when you keep in touch and demonstrate a sincere interest in them both personally and professionally.
- “What do you do?”
Don’t pigeon hole yourself as any ole ordinary accountant, “I’m a CPA”. Practice answering the question in such a way that ensures you are remembered specifically and distinctly from all of the rest. This is called your ‘elevator pitch.’ Instead, you can say something simple like, “I’m an accountant with WithumSmith+Brown, one of the top accounting firms in the country. Have you heard of us? I specialize in . We work with many great clients in this area.” That’s a basic good ice-breaking introduction which you can follow up by asking questions about the person with whom you are speaking.
- Focus on a niche, not a list.
Even those new acquaintances who are genuinely interested in you will quickly switch off if you try to identify all of the things you do or could do for clients. Equally, they won’t remember the list so you’ll be in danger of making yourself more forgettable. In the example above, you need to focus on a key area or topic no matter how broad your expertise and experience. People want to know more go-to people who have an expertise.
- Flirt as you network. Ok, not in way you are thinking, but by following these simple gestures to make you appear more likable:
F is for FUN;
L is for LAUGHTER or at least having a smile on your face;
I is being INTERESTED in what other people have to say;
R is RESPONDING to what other people are saying through conversation;
T is TALKING appropriately not extensively about yourself.
- You’re not alone if you feel alone.
There will always be someone else standing alone who will be so pleased and relieved if you go over and start a conversation with them. The chances of rejection are tiny. Simply introduce yourself, ask them their name and what do they do.
- Listen to what people say; don’t try to sell.
You can only solve people’s problems or help them make the most of opportunities if you know what these are. That means listening and absorbing, not talking. If you listen well, they’ll trust you and if you ask the right questions, you’ll uncover all the clues you’ll need in order to decide if you have something to offer them.
- Get the other person’s name and business card.
You can politely ask for someone’s card without seeming pushy, or wait until they offer their card to you. If you didn’t catch their name when first introduced, ask again. No one objects to repeating their name to someone who evidently wants to remember them.
- Follow up afterwards.
Having given up your time to attend the event, make sure it is worthwhile by keeping a promise to follow up with each of the people you meet. Even if you think they may not be the most valuable contact, remember that you don’t know who they know who could be interested in what you do. Follow up with an email or supply some valuable information in the next day or so after meeting. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Then ensure you keep in touch thereafter.
I hope these tips will help you be more successful in your networking endeavors. By being subtle and polite, you come from a position of strength to follow up with your new-found friends/colleagues/potential clients to begin a lasting and meaningful relationship. So get out there and network!