Networking does not have to be hard work – if you are organised

Networking is not Net-eating or Net-sitting – it is Net Working

Recently I ran another enjoyable session for East Sussex Entrepreneurs at our BBF (Business Builder Forum for Entrepreneurs) at the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne.

Disappointingly several members had to cancel attendance at the last moment, but a comment at the end of the meeting made me think.

One of the members Jonathan came up to me and said “Very uninspiring title to today’s topic – but it was amazingly useful content” !??

WOW – that made me think – how many of the members who cancelled were really called away to another meeting or were they equally thinking – Oh this meeting does not sound very inspiring?

The Topic was Networking – Why is it so important, and why is it done so badly by so many?

Perhaps he was right – not particularly inspiring?

The trouble is so many people think that networking is relatively unimportant, and do it because they feel they have to, but deep down they question whether or not it is worth it.

That’s probably what happened with some of our members today ….Never mind – it was their loss because, as one member put it in his feedback, that was the best ever and most useful session he had been to …… so what did we talk about?

Well I cant cover 90 minutes meeting, but I will cover a few snippets.

I started by asking the group – what did they think was the cheapest form of marketing – out came the correct answer – “Word of mouth marketing” – and of course one of the most effective ways of generating effective word of mouth marketing and referrals, is by being good effective networkers.

But the trouble is, in my experience, that too many business owners/managers have not thought about why they are going networking in the first place, and I think that is the reason why so often I see people from the same business gathered around talking to each other, or other people they already know, rather than trying to meet new people.

The trouble is they are merely turning up without preparation or thought and so have no purpose, let alone systems, to make the most of their time.

I shared a comment from an old pal of mine called Tony Gedge – who used to run Abundant Referrals Marketing – he said something like “Networking is not net-eating or net-sitting, it is net-working” In other words you should take the exercise seriously and work at it!

Lets assume the reason I am going networking is to find someone who just might want to become a client, or alternatively might possibly know someone who might want to use my services

So let me share with you one system I use, when I am meeting somebody in a networking environment for the first time – Tony Gedge uses an acronym to help him called “FORD” – I use something different called “I-Help”

“I” is for Introduce myself and make some small talk to try to establish an initial connection -eg Hello – May I join you? – My name is Mike … is this a regular meeting you attend or are you a first timer like me (something nonthreatening and unimposing to help “break the ice”)

Then if I begin to feel they are boring me, and I am worried they could be a waste of time ( I will not go through tactics to move them on to someone else in this blog – just visit www.kintish.com) I cut to the chase and aim to find out what they are at the meeting for – so onto “H”

“H” is for Help – eg “so to allow me to understand how I might be able to help you, it would be useful if you could describe the ideal type of business to which you would like to be introduced – just in case I know any, or bump in to any subsequently” (If you are offering to help, it is very rare for someone to spurn that opportunity to tell you, and you then come across as a person with integrity and generosity of spirit)At this stage, (notice you have taken control and not talked about yourself much) you decide if there is mileage to continue with them, in which case you ask them for their business card or, if not, you find some unsuspecting person with whom to park them ( again visit www.kintish.com to find out how)

If you want to continue to get to know them – it is then time to get personal, and really start to get to know your new friend and “engage” with them.

“E” is Experience – eg “Tell me more about you, and where you have been working/are working, what you have done in your life so far …. etc etc ”

“L” is “Love to do” eg “I cant wait for the weekend ……..what do you love to do for relaxation/holidays etc etc ?”and last but not least

“P” is “People around you” eg Learn about Family, Friends, Work colleagues (depending on how well you have built rapport – if you have not established instant rapport, don’t press too deep too early – there will be plenty of time to develop the relationship.This order is important in my opinion, because I have heard  “experts” advise to start asking about friends and family first as a great way of engaging quickly, but I know if I was asked about things like that by someone I had only just met for the first time, and I had not had a chance to build any sort of rapport, my inner voice would be screaming “Whoa!!! Back off – mind your own business” (but then maybe I am a little too precious) 🙂

And if you have built rapport, they will then ask you similar questions, and ask you for your card – you decide if you you think they can help you.

In my experience, too many people attend networking events loaded with business cards, determined to offload them on anyone kind enough to accept them, and most of these will be left in the nearest bin.

What I always remind my team – our goal is to come away with other people’s business cards to allow us to establish relationships which will  generate us future work, directly or indirectly, and only if they ask for our card will we give one out.

One final tip – if you are going to part with your card – please make sure it will be easy for people to write something on the card about you that is memorable

On our cards, we have typed on the back :-I met Mike at ……………. Call him about ……………

I hope this is helpful – I would be interested to hear what techniques you use to help with first meetings at Networking events.

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