By Roger Pierce, the voice of Scotiabank's Get Growing for business website. Author, speaker and columnist, Roger has become one of Canada's top small business experts by sharing what he's learned from building 12 companies.
Your next customer is ready to meet you. Are you ready for that conversation?
Networking is a sound marketing strategy for business owners because it doesn't cost a lot of money, it's fairly easy to do and it works. And, with thousands of organizations across Canada running networking events, there's no shortage of opportunities to get connected.
It pays to prepare before you set out to network. Improve your chances for a great conversation by understanding (and avoiding) these common networking mistakes.
- Attending the wrong events. Research an event to make sure it attracts the people you want to meet before you invest your time and money to participate. Call the organizers, speak with past guests or search event reviews online.
- Fish where the fish are. Attend only those events where your best prospects congregate.
- Hoarding the conversation. Successful networkers talk very little about themselves, instead focusing on their conversation partner.
- Get the other person to talk while you listen. Ask a lot of questions about what they do, who they are and what they need. You'll quickly discover how to help that person with your products or services.
- Muddy benefits. While a typical 'elevator pitch' or '30-second commercial' is helpful to describe what you do, make sure it includes one reason why people buy from you.
- Focus on a benefit instead of a description. It's more effective and engaging to say "we help businesses to pay less tax" than to say "we are an accounting firm."
- Failing to follow-up. The biggest sin of networking is failing to fulfill your promise of post-event contact. The best conversation in the world is pointless unless one person picks up the phone, sends an email, makes a social media connection or mails a note.
- Following up usually gets pushed aside because entrepreneurs get busy doing other things. Anticipate that problem by scheduling an hour the day after your event to follow up with key people.
- Trying to close the sale. Networking is a marketing activity...not a selling activity. Like proposing marriage on a first date, it's a mistake to jump into a sales pitch during your initial conversation. Aggression turns people off.
- Commit to the longer (and more beneficial) relationship development process by using your networking encounter to simply get to know someone.
What have you learned from your networking activities? Got a suggestion for effective connection? Please share your comments below.
By Roger Pierce
Posted on Sep 27, 2012 9:24:01 AM