How to win business through networking
People go to networking to promote their business, yet no one likes to be sold at. Understanding how to win business through networking is a bit of an art.
You might be amazing at running your business, but networking may fill you with fear from the shaky boots up. Big business opportunities could come from networking, so it’s important to come across well in person.
Sometimes you may feel like you are being thrown into a shark tank at a networking event. Let’s not forget that fear of networking and public speaking comes up in the top human phobias alongside arachnophobia, aerophobia, and trypanophobia (aka spiders, heights and needles).
Yet, networking is a vital aspect of your business and in helping it to grow. You need to know the questions to ask while networking to build real relationships.
So, you know you need to do it, right?
Where do you start?
A key take-home message here is to be memorable and leave a lasting impression, impressions that build real relationships.
The standard, “So, what do you do?” isn’t entirely thought-provoking – it’s a little bit ‘standard’ isn’t it?
Ask about them: questions while networking to build real relationships, not questions for questions sake. No one likes to feel interrogated.
Focus on who they are and what they do, this will also give you the insight as to whether they are the right customer or partner for your business.
It’s a good idea to have some questions ready for when you’re at the event. Some people think that asking questions are a bit of a no-no. However, it’s important to remember that one of the main reasons you’re there is to learn about other businesses, how they can help you, and how you can help them.
How to win business through networking is not just about what you can gain, but what you can offer to others.
The best questions are ones that show genuine interest in what someone does. For example, if you’re talking to a graphic designer who works with small businesses, you could ask what they’re working on at the moment. Or, their opinion on your logo or latest leaflet.
If you’re talking to someone who runs an online store selling handmade goods, ask how they market their products. Or, ask what materials they use.
Being more human in your interest in the ‘other’ will create an easier start.
You’ll want to think of more insightful questions that invoke a more thoughtful response to get to the heart of not only what they do, but why. Think about how you would answer this question too (they’ll likely ask it back!)
Perhaps follow this with how they came to be in that line of work – people love to tell you their story.
As a business person you will know what it’s like to be in the business community. Reflect on why you remember others in your community already? Was it because they said something inspiring? Related to you on a level? Tried to help you get further ahead in business?
It’s likely it’s because of one of those things and very unlikely that they simply told you about how successful they were.
Remember you are forming genuine connections and relationships.
Aside from these initial ideas, which I realise can still feel a little daunting, here are some great one-line openers that I go to if I am not quite warmed up enough to simply start chatting.
· What is your biggest challenge in business right now?
· How do you stay motivated?
· Is there a particular skill that has helped your business grow?
· Could you name the most helpful thing someone could give you right now?
· Tell me one thing people don’t know about your business?
· What do you love about what you do?
· Do you have any advice for other business owners?
Pre-event prep and post-event follow up
If you know which event you are going to in advance, ask for a list of attendees. Very quickly you will work out your top three people to seek out and speak to are.
Take five minutes to go onto each of their websites and check out their ‘About Me’ or ‘Projects’ pages. This way, when you say hello you can drop into conversation what you found interesting on their site.
Always look for two-way traffic. You might be able to benefit from them, but what would they benefit from you? If there is a win-win situation and you are open and clear from the start, you will form a stronger relationship from the very beginning.
However, even if you don’t get an answer that helps your own business right now, it can help build relationships with people who might be able to help down the road or refer clients your way when they have extra capacity.
People like to help one another in a sense of community. So, reach out to those you know are wanting to be part of that community or seek out those who you know are relatively old hands in the network.
After any event, remember the follow through is just as important as the first impression. Take your real-life interaction onto a digital platform like LinkedIn.
Connect and then comment on some of their posts. You want the impression you made to stick. You are building likeability and trust of your brand in doing so.
Regardless of whether you have fears around face-to-face networking or not, you’ll need to overcome them
Post-pandemic, the value placed on meeting people in real-time, in person, is higher than ever.
How to win business through networking essentially boils down to showing your human side. People want a sense of community, and the business community is no exception.
Building a community starts with real relationships and by asking the right questions to build real relationships.