The idea of walking into a room full of strangers scares most people. As an entrepreneur, how can you change that fear into opportunity? How do you develop a strategy to ensure that your network improves your nett worth?
All the answers to your unique business lifestage questions
Firstly, change your mindset – see the room full of strangers as a room full of opportunities to be explored. Secondly, be strategic in building your network, otherwise you may annoy people and achieve very little but handing out business cards.
Four ways to become a professional networker
Bear the following in mind:
1. Be prepared
Attend the right events. Conferences, meetings of businesses and professional organisations are a good place to start. Conferences offer several opportunities to network with like-minded people, but due to the number of people attending it may be difficult to find the right people.
Familiarise yourself with the theme of the event, do research about the topic and speakers and prepare related questions that can lead to interesting conversations. Use these questions strategically – people will remember you more for the questions asked than for pushing your views across.
Related: 8 Quick tips to maximise your networking skills
2. Have a goal
Know what you want to achieve e.g. to meet two people in the profession with whom you can do business or to get 50 business cards of people to add to your database. Your goal will determine your networking pitch and whom you talk to for how long.
3. Pitch like a professional
Most people at such events don’t know each other, therefore introductions will be in the order of the day. Prepare a 30-second pitch, knowing that you might not have time to say everything you want.
Start with you name, surname and role (not MD/CEO as nobody wants to network with such senior people, but rather senior partner), your business’ name and what benefit it offers. Focus on the correct wording – the end result such as “We improve employee productivity” versus “We train people.”
If you have time, you will add what is unique about the way you impact your clients. Allow the person to introduce him/herself. A clever way to start the conversation is to close your pitch with a question relevant to the event and your business e.g. “What is your view on the productivity of employees in your industry?” Then you introduce the need for your service/product!
4. Behave like a professional
It is important to look professional. Have business cards readily available in a professional holder. Don’t scratch around to find a card – it will limit your networking value. One cannot network effectively with a glass of wine, a small plate and holding a handbag. Network before you get something to eat.
Related: 5 Rookie networking fails and how to avoid them
Quick tips to improve your NETT worth
- Do not be negative about anything – neither the event, the weather nor the traffic
- Do not bad mouth anybody – not even politicians
- Be knowledgeable about the topic to be discussed at the event or conference
- Get the person’s permission to call and make an appointment
- Practice your pitch
- Listen to the person you are talking to, do not look over their shoulders to see if there are other more important people in the room
- Always wear your name tag on your right side – when you shake hands it is in the “line of sight” of the other person
- Remember the other person also wants to make new connections – build their network as much as you are building your own
- Follow-up and follow-through – send that email, make that phone call and include their contact details in your database – otherwise you are not building your network!