Networking events: What's in it for me?

By: Mimi Hughes

Date: 20 March 2013

Networking Events: What's in it for me?/bacon, eggs and toast{{}}Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head. Went down stairs and drank a cup and looking up I noticed I was late and (diverging from the famous Beatles song) got in my car and drove 20 miles in the dark and rain to reach a networking breakfast…

Why? Because I want to win more business! But how?

Gone are the days of having the time and money to meet an endless stream of people in the hope they might decide they have an enormous contract that only your business can fulfil. Everyone now has to sell. Not hard sell, foot-in-the door type stuff. But by being sufficiently interesting so someone who may have a need for your product or service will want to know more.

There is little point in just being at an event to get your name on the delegate list. Thanks to the internet, it is now easy for purchasers to shortlist potential providers by picking the most appealing websites. However, there is one thing that a website cannot replicate and that is confidence in the people, the confidence created by meeting someone face to face – which is why we must network!

So there is no point in going to a networking event if you:

  1. Don’t talk to people or tell them about what you do.
  2. Are no more interesting than a website.
  3. Don’t give them the confidence that you know what you’re doing

Here are some tips

  • Work out in advance the type of person you want to meet; define an ideal profile and then identify the essential characteristics of this person which make them a potential customer (we call these ‘keys’ because they unlock a customer). When you are talking to people at the event, listen to what they say about themselves and look for these keys. If a person has even one of your keys (they rarely have all of them), they are a good contact and you should aim to meet again.
  • If you have identified that someone is worth talking to by listening, tell them what you do in no more than 10 words (my opener is “We help people with their persuasiveness”). Your ‘grabber’ should be structured to get the other person to ask for more information. If they do, you have about one minute to tell them how you can help them, focusing on the keys you identified in what they said.
  • If the other person is still interested at this point, provide some free advice or interesting information about your product or service so they can judge your expertise for themselves. Spend no more than five minutes with them; agree a follow up; then politely move on to someone else. There is limited time and they want to get on with seeing someone else as well.

If you don’t do these things – enjoy your very expensive bacon and eggs!

Mimi Hughes is director of training at The Business Voice

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