Dr Renate Volpe, in her “Networking Tips” cards, says “Take a long term view. Networking is an investment in a longer- term relationship, don’t be overly opportunistic.”
So many times, when I talk to people about networking and how it has changed my business, I get “the look” – you know that look that says it all. Often “the look” is followed by the words – “I hate networking, it doesn’t work for me”.
Upon delving just a little deeper, I often find out exactly what the problem is. The person concerned has been to exactly one networking meeting and the expectation has been that they will walk away from the meeting having sold their product or service to every single person in the room!
Let’s think about it logically – every person there has gone to the meeting with that exact same intention. Let’s face it people – no one goes to a networking meeting with the intention of buying anything. So you need to change your mindset – yes again!
I always like to say that networking is to building a business relationship as speed dating is to dating! Ok, you can stop laughing now, let me explain.
When you go to a networking meeting or event, what you are actually doing is meeting the 20 or 30 people there in a very short space of time. If you went out and did the cold calling thing – how long would it take you to physically meet 20 or 30 people? Well at a networking event, especially if that event is facilitated or even semi facilitated, then you will be meeting 20 or 30 people in a matter of 2 to 3 hours.
You have now been introduced and when you make contact with them it is no longer a cold call. Now when you contact them, you have common ground on which to build – you met them at the XYZ event and you would like to set up a follow-up meeting so that you can explore synergies and business opportunities.
You still have to build the relationship mind. Just because you have met them at one meeting doesn’t now make you bosom buddies!
Even at your subsequent meeting, don’t go in with the expectation that you are going to sell them anything – go in with the expectation that you are building a foundation for a solid relationship.
I usually ask them the first question (just because I am a natural networker and because I can) and that question is usually – “How can I help you – tell me a bit more about your business and what it is that you do?”
Listen carefully, making notes (it makes it easier for me to remember) on what the person does and what their needs are. Ask questions about who their target market is, or what their expectations are etc and then think carefully about who, in your database, you can match them up to in terms of synergies.
Follow up – always follow up! I usually send a mail to the person that I met giving them the details of who I want them to get in touch with, and a copy to the person that I am introducing them to, with the details of the person that I met. In this way I am effectively introducing them to one another on an e-mail – again it is not a cold call and does away with the awkwardness of such a call.
Don’t expect anything in return – it will come at some stage, and when it comes, it will be in a flood!
Remember it is a relationship that you are building, build it one step at a time and build it solidly.
Should you wish to know more about Dr Renate Volpe and her cards, please visit her website on www.drrenatevolpe.co.za