Networking is that all-important tool in your business arsenal and the good news is that there are several techniques you can use to get the upper hand.
As we discussed in part one, the first rule is to avoid free-to-attend seminars and concentrate on paid events instead. This reduces your chance of turning up someplace and simply being sold to.
So, what else should you keep in mind as you attempt to carve out a niche for you and your business?
Target the right people
It’s tempting to pitch up at a big event and stand in line to get in a word with the tentpole speaker of the evening. But a far more effective tactic is to seek out the men and women running the show behind the scenes. They’ll have a wealth of knowledge and they won’t be used to being asked questions. Tell them you’re enjoying the event, explain who you are, and ask them if there are any guests on the show floor worth speaking to. This will get you an in that you can use for the rest of the evening.
Never push the sale
As business and productivity guru Tim Ferriss outlines, the easiest way to put someone off at a networking event is to come in too hot. What you want to do is say enough to generate interest, but not enough that you’re boring someone. When you speak, make sure you’re leaving room for people to ask follow-up questions. If this happens, it’s a good sign you’re being coy enough.
Go long, go narrow
This is another good trick we’ve picked up from Tim. Favor the “long and narrow” approach. In other words, pick people within a very narrow field of interest who are the most likely to be interested in the product/business you’re promoting.
Then play the long game. The goal here is not to flog business cards and get artificial numbers. The goal is to pique interest in a select few quality contacts who are the most likely to make a measurable difference to your prospects.
Don’t ask for hand-outs
Networking is a two-way street. Asking for hand-outs is tantamount to walking around with a cup. You need to demonstrate value long before you try and decipher whether a transaction is possible.
Be the nice guy
Offer to buy a round of drinks for your new acquaintances; ask lots of questions and don’t be afraid to show that you’re unsure of a few things. Know-it-alls put people on edge. But people who are willing to admit they don’t know everything put others at ease. Sometimes, playing the low-key nice guy works in your favor. Also, as we stressed in the previous article, go to networking events on your own, as it’ll force you out of your comfort zone.
Increase the density of your network
Having a lot of people in your address book is great, but if they all exist in a silo, you’re not maximizing your network. The answer: increase the density of your network by introducing contacts to one another. Choose two people you know would benefit from the introduction. Not only are you demonstrating your value, you’re opening the door to receiving the same treatment down the line.