Six tips for optimizing your networking
Everyone knows that an entrepreneur’s days are extremely full. In addition to business management and development, there is another activity that undoubtedly deserves special attention: business networking.
All of the managers of SMEs will agree: Building a mutually beneficial business network is a priority that will result in the sound management of your business. However, building such a network of business contacts, if it constitutes one of your best assets, will also require an investment in time.
The following is a structured approach that will enable you to optimize the time you devote to developing your network of business contacts.
1- Identify your objectives
What is the targeted outcome of face-to-face meetings? Are you looking for new clients, new ideas, new suppliers, or maybe even financial partners? Identifying your targets will make you more productive in dialogues with new contacts.
2- Create a list of local and regional activities
You probably receive a mountain of invitations to business networking activities. Therefore, it is important to create a list and prioritize the most promising ones, based on your previously identified objectives.
Events related to your sector of activities or organized by your professional association or even your local Chamber of Commerce represent golden opportunities for building your network. The same is true of specialized workshops and conferences that attract individuals with whom you may have shared interests.
3- Be prepared
You have selected your first activity: A reception organized by your Chamber of Commerce. Your objective is to identify new potential suppliers.
To begin with, be sure you know who is organizing the event, along with the most influential individuals who will be in attendance. Consulting their LinkedIn pages will allow you to see their accomplishments and recognize them quickly during the event, thanks to their photograph. You can also see a list of any contacts you may already share with them. For example, it may be useful to know that you have a friend in common.
Follow the same steps for potential clients that you have identified among the participants. Take the time to send them an e-mail to let them know that you will be attending the activity.
4- Carefully prepare your presentation
A cocktail event is not the time for an aggressive sales pitch, and self-promotion tactics may rub many people the wrong way. It is more of an opportunity to establish personal ties and mutually beneficial relationships. Among other things, this involves paying close attention to the opinions, challenges and needs of others. It should go without saying that active listening is your best asset during this type of event.
That being said, it is still important to pay attention to how you present yourself, taking into consideration any distinguishing elements of your business or aspects that make you more interesting. It is never a bad idea to practice – we can all use a little fine-tuning in some areas. Using this approach, you can avoid long, drawn-out discussions where others ask you questions about your business. You will be able to describe what you do clearly and succinctly, and point out the unique value of your business.
5- Be personable
Event day is here. Now is the time to reap the benefits of the time you have devoted to preparing for the event.
As soon as you arrive, try to meet and briefly speak with the event organizers. Present your business and see if they can put you in contact with individuals who may be interested in meeting you or who you are looking to meet.
Identify the “matchmakers”, those who love to put people with common interests in contact with each other. These individuals are networking accelerators, and it is important to cultivate your relationships with them.
Attempt to meet a reasonable number of participants, ideally between 5 and 8, and limit each exchange to approximately 5 minutes per person.
Pay attention to people you already know. While they may be able to facilitate exchanges, they can also take up your time. Be sure to spend some time with them, but keep it brief, and don’t forget that you have an objective in mind.
First and foremost, your objective is to make new contacts in order to meet specific needs. Over the course of the event, attempt to meet a reasonable number of participants, ideally between 5 and 8, and limit each exchange to approximately 5 minutes per person.
The goal of each discussion is not to sign a contract on the spot, but to establish the basis for a future conversation. If the discussion has been promising, initiate an exchange of business cards and propose a follow-up meeting.
The day after the activity, lay out the business cards you received and send a short note of thanks to each person.
Connect with them on LinkedIn right away. Visit their profile, look at their career path and take note of any shared interests or elements you may discover.
You might begin by proposing a meeting with any suppliers you may have found interesting. They will likely remember you and be ready to confirm a meeting quickly.
In addition, be proactive with “matchmakers”. For example, invite them for a business lunch, and you may end up extending the scope of your network in one fell swoop.
There you have it! You are now better equipped to ensure more productive business networking activities. Happy networking!
This article was written by an expert from PME MTL Ouest-de-l’Île.
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