The word networking often brings up images of large corporate events with lots of people in suits, wearing lanyards and trying to forge a relationship that will bear the test of time. In reality though, networking doesn’t have to be synonymous with long business trips, there are plenty of networking activities you can be doing as part of your everyday life. Have a look at these simple tips we’ve got for you, and think about how you could implement them in your day-to-day activities.
1. Have an Elevator Speech at the Ready
Just like you should always have a business card on you, ready to hand out at a moment’s notice, you should also have an elevator speech prepared. For those who don’t know, an elevator speech is a quick description of who you are, what you do, and why you’re better than your competitors. The idea comes from the hypothetical scenario of meeting someone important in an elevator and needing to pitch your business to them quickly and in a way that makes them curious to know more. These speeches need to be short, around 30 seconds typically.
2. Use Open-Ended Questions
If you ever do bump into someone you’d be interested in establishing a relationship with, you’ll want to find out as much information about their company as possible. Firstly, because the more information you have, the better you can establish whether they’re right for your business or not and, secondly, because it makes you come across as interested. The best way to gain lots of information is to use open-ended questions so that whoever you’re talking to doesn’t have the opportunity to simply say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, they have to expand upon their answer.
3. Listen More Than You Talk
A lot of us ask a question and then, within seconds, our minds have moved on to the next thought, meaning that we’re not really taking in what it is their saying. You can’t do this when networking, you need to be present in the moment. Concentrate on listening to what they have to say and then give reasoned, insightful responses to show that you have been listening.
4. Don’t Pitch Your Own Product Too Much
People are much more likely to warm to you if they feel like you’re genuinely interested in them, not because you want something from them (i.e. for them to buy print from you). Be patient and wait for an opportunity to bring up your service naturally. If you’ve brought it up once already and they didn’t ask for a business card, don’t make them take one off you. Focus on forming a strong relationship with them so that when they do have print work, they can feel comfortable in contacting you for more details at the time.
5. Ask for Other Peoples’ Business Cards
Just because nobody’s asked for your card doesn’t mean that you can’t ask for theirs. If you’re confident that they’d work well with your business then go ahead and ask for their contact details. Now you have a means to get in touch with them in a more direct manner, later on. It could also subtly encourage them to ask for yours so that you are exchanging cards rather than it being a one-sided affair.
6. Always Follow Up on Referrals
If somebody has suggested work for you, it makes sense to contact them as soon as possible, doesn’t it? Some people, however, don’t seem to think like that. Some people assume that because that person has taken their card, they don’t need to follow up on the referral. That’s simply not the case, you should try to follow up on a client within 24 hours ideally, to ask them if there’s anything you can help them with.
7. Focus on Helping Others
In a time of such high competition within fields, it can be hard to set aside that mentality and think about finding ways to benefit other people. Whenever you head into a networking situation, you should be actively thinking about what you can do to help the people you meet, not how they can help you. Obviously you can help people with any of their print needs but you can also help by referring work to the people you meet. Referring work to others will help increase your credibility and make others feel like you’re the kind of person they’d like in their professional network.
8. Join Some Local Clubs
While it’s true that networking doesn’t have to involve going to official networking events, it can be useful to go to a regular, established group and do some unofficial, local networking of your own. Do a little research on what groups there are in your area that might appeal to you and go along one night. You’ll meet a lot of local people there who you can gently encourage to use your printing services and they in turn will spread your name to their friends.
9. Don’t Skip the Pub
Often, after a group event, there’s someone suggesting that you all go for a quick drink in the pub to wind down. It might not always be a pub, but what we’re saying here is to not miss out on anything, particularly after networking events. The couple of drinks afterwards is where people get to know each other the most so you could build up some very strong relationships.
10. Network Online Too!
In some respects, the modern world of technology makes networking so much easier. You can reach out to people before you’ve ever met them face-to-face and you can connect with people who aren’t geographically near you. It also makes it much easier to maintain relationships after having met someone in person. LinkedIn is a social network designed especially for business professionals wanting to connect with each other. You can use other social media platforms but we recommend you only use these if you have met the person in question as it is a more personal channel thank LinkedIn.
Interested in that last point and want to learn more about networking via social media? You may be interested in our blog; How to Find Customers and Build Relationships through Social Media.