For most entrepreneurs, there is typically nothing more dreaded about business than sales.
Despite sales being one of the least favourite ‘must do’ past times, sales is also one of the most important aspects of creating, developing, and expanding a business. One of the most natural methods of sales is networking – hence why many business owners also deplore networking… because they think it requires sales… doesn’t it?
Throughout the past 16 years of running a business I have discovered some very prominent Dos AND Do Nots when it comes to networking.
To maximize your sales and marketing efforts, be sure to follow through on these Dos, while at the same time being sure to avoid these Do Nots!
10 Networking Tips for Etiquette Success
10. Project your authentic, most natural, and professional image.
Image consists of what you wear, what you say verbally, what you communicate through your body language, how you smell**, and what your intentions are through your eyes. Projecting your best image is one of the most important aspects of attracting quality people – to you!
In the field of Image, the most quoted statistic is that it takes only 7 seconds for someone to make up his/her mind about you… hence the importance of projecting your best image.
(I won’t bore you, or horrify you for that matter with detail, about the tough experience of being overweight, wearing a heavy jacket and wool pants, and experimenting with an all natural deodorant while going to networking events. I will simply say, don’t do it!)
**What I will say is smell seems to be more important to most people than looks. You know the saying, ‘I can smell a thief a mile away’… well if you wear a ton of perfume or cologne, OR, you are doing a cleanse, be aware of this important aspect of smell and image in general – you don’t want people to be able to smell you a mile away!
One of the greatest things I have done in my career is work with an image consultant. I now also have many image consulting clients around the world and absolutely recognize the value of hiring one. I recommend searching for an experienced image consultant who can help to ‘doll you up’ and make you the ‘bell of the networking ball’ or the ‘James Bond of the ball’ for that matter. In fact, I have seen the power of image and recognize so much so that as a part of my service of business coaching, for my non-image clients, I refer them to the appropriate and most aligned one for them.
9. Bring professional and attractive business cards and/or some type of handout.
Business cards or other handouts such as bookmarks, postcard style promotions, or even gift certificates are all fine to hand out at networking events. Be sure to bring one of these options with you and/or keep them in you car, whether the event is for business or personally focused.
However, DO NOT become a ‘business card pusher’. Just like I advocate ‘don’t do drugs and don’t push drugs’, don’t push business cards!
I typically do not hand out my business cards unless asked first. It is best NOT to assume that every individual with whom you come into contact absolutely MUST have your business card. Avoid giving off a ‘needy’ energy on your part – in other words ‘needing’ them to contact you and you may find they are interested and responsive.
8. Leave politics, religion, sex, and other controversial topics at the coat check!
Unless you have a credible source, who is 100% certain that the person with whom you are speaking is highly interested in gender issues, politics, religion, sex, or another controversial subject, save these topics for another time and a different occasion, like a rally, a march or bed!
Networking events are for getting to know people, sharing a bit about you, enjoying yourselves, and making connections. If the other person leads the conversation in the direction on any of these topics that you are also interested in, that is fine and feel free to embellish… but also remember, it is okay to save some for next time, after you have gotten to know each other a bit, and for a more intimate environment 😉
7. Make the experience of networking more about having a good time than about attracting clients.
This is actually one of the most significant keys to attraction – Individuals who enjoy themselves and are relaxed typically magnetize people and opportunities to them more easily and effortlessly than those who have an attachment to converting prospects into clients.
6. Be genuinely interested in getting to know other people.
If you are the kind of person that is NOT interested in getting to know other people, do not go to networking events!
Networking means getting to know others and sharing about you. Be authentic in your desire to get to know other people. I really enjoy networking events for this very reason. I love meeting people who are in careers or jobs that are unique or ones that I have never heard of.
At the very first networking event I went to, I met a business owner who ran a horseback riding school. As I have always been interested in that, it was very interesting to get to know her, her motivations, and to find out more about her school and the process.
5. Be clear about what you do, who you typically do it for and how you do it.
Not only are you going to ask the people you meet about what they do, you are also very likely going to be asked. It is best to have a clear response, prepared in advance, that is very natural for you, regarding what you will say when attendees ask about you.
What you DO or what your title is, is probably the easiest item to answer. Having a niche/target market though, is a much more potent way to become known quickly and therefore attract clients more quickly.
For example, if you are known as the personal trainer for realtors, then if I meet you at the event and know of a realtor, I will more likely consider making the connection between the two of you. On the other hand, if you are simply a personal trainer who works with anyone who breathes, it will be less likely for me to think of referring you.
Further, it is best to be prepared to share some kind of significant case study or testimonial OR a special story regarding how you got into your chosen career.
Ideally you would refine your ability to ask questions and respond and be clear when speaking about yourself. This can take time and will definitely take practice. Don’t expect to get it perfect your first time out and, instead, continue to refine and refine and refine – this is called Mastery!
4. Respect your own time and energy.
If you are astute, you can typically spot the individuals at events who are just there to ‘convert you’ into a client, or worse, act like they are genuine to fool you into thinking they care, when the truth they are concealing is that they want to convert you by wooing you into thinking they care! Reread that a couple of times if you need to.
These individuals are generally ‘needy’, meaning they need you to help them, not the other way around, for them to feel whole, successful, secure, acknowledged, powerful, and for increasing their bottom dollar. With these individuals, end the conversations politely and quickly.
3. The rule of thumb for how many people you should meet at a networking event: There is no rule of thumb.
If you come away from the event having had one incredible conversation, fantastic!
If you come away from the event having had 20 incredible conversations, fantastic! If you come away from the event having had 0 incredible conversations, although that is not fantastic, that is absolutely fine.
You just never know who you will meet at networking events and what opportunities will present themselves.
Sometimes, you may meet someone who feels like a long lost brother or sister, while at others you may think, “Get me the #$%@ out of here!”
(#=h, $=e, %=c, @=k … # and $ may represent other letters depending on how rough the networking experience was!)
2. When it comes to following up after the networking event, here are some suggestions (Frankenstein style):
Follow up: good.
No follow up: not bad.
Follow up many times: bad.
Avoiding follow up: bad.
**Adding individuals to your e-newsletter or distribution list because you got their card, but received no consent to add them: Worthy of the e-mail death penalty (as this is considered spamming you could lose your e-mail address! DON’T DO IT!)
1. Be Yourself.
On both a personal spiritual level AND on a professional level there is no need to try to be more than who you really are. You are enough! Consequently, also do not act coy, shy, timid, or less than who you are either!
You are enough! Allow people to see who you are at events as much as possible (preferably clothed!)
You now have the main elements and basic structure for networking. Networking, although also a part of sales, can be a lot of fun. And you just never know what profound connections you will make and attract! Happy Networking!