It is said that you should ‘start with the end in mind’. Whilst I agree with this statement in terms of “Networking” and indeed of business, I am not sure that it is true of life (however that would be another discussion for another time).
Going to a networking meeting or attempting to do any kind of networking without having the end in mind, would be going there to achieve absolutely – nothing!
Your objective, or end, in networking is clearly to do business – whether that business is to buy (or find suppliers) or to sell (either your product or services) or perhaps it is to do a combination of the two. The bottom line is that it is to do the business.
In order to do the business, I am of the opinion, that a relationship needs to be built. If people don’t know you or don’t know what it is that you do, you cannot start building the relationship so you need to tell them who you are and what it is that you do.
Some networking events allow only a very short time for you to explain what it is that you do and who you are. So it is imperative that you have a really good “elevator speech”.
You need to have your elevator speech written and rehearsed. Practice on your friends and family – make sure that it illustrates clearly what it is that you do.
If possible your elevator speech should highlight what it is that makes your offering different to and better than all of your competitors. Think about what it is that you are saying – if you are a “hairdresser” for example, why should people come to you rather than any other hairdresser? Remember that you know what it is that you do better than anyone else, so it stands to reason that you need to tell them and explain it to them. They cannot read your mind, so they will not know if you don’t tell them.
Then of course you also need ‘to listen’. It’s no good giving people what you think they want or need. You have to give them what they want and in order to find out what that is you need to listen to what they say. Many people don’t actually know how to say the words about what it is that they want, so you need to listen carefully to the words that they are saying in order to determine what they want.
You love to get referrals I am sure. I know that I do. I also know that there is no way that I am going to refer anyone because they were at the same meeting, venue, pub, party (insert where you met them here) as I was, so I make an appointment with them in order to set up a meeting for a one-on-one discussion, to find out what is that they do, to ascertain if there are any synergies and find out if there is any mutually beneficial way that you can add value to each others businesses. This is how the relationship can start to develop. Once the relationship is in this stage it is easier for you to refer or collaborate with or form strategic alliances with these individuals.
This is the end that I always have in mind when I network. Do you really know why it is that you network?