Blog: The Art of Networking
3 minute read: Freelancers, including other business people, are always struggling to network, which is essential to get new business. If it’s not through referrals, how do they approach others? Why is networking such a challenge for so many people? Ask your colleagues or friends around you and they will tell you they feel awkward about networking. They will either tell you they never meet the right people, or they get shy. Sometimes they attend the wrong event, collect many cards (but the wrong ones) and leave the event feeling unfulfilled.
Here are some useful tips that fluidmeet would like to share with you to help improve your networking skills:
Introduce Yourself with a Smile!
It’s important to enter the room with the right body language – and smiling is dead important when you are trying to make new contacts in a room full of potential clients. Whether you are in a networking event, a session for entrepreneurs, or an educational seminar, it’s always good to get to know your peers. And there’s nothing wrong with taking that first step to build a new contact. Being the first one to initiate a conversation can be a very natural thing. For example, if you see someone enter your space, it’s easy to say with a smile: ‘hi, are you here for networking?’ For others, it is hard to break the ice. But a smile goes a long way!
Have Your Elevator Pitch Ready - in Just 15 Seconds
First impressions matter, and you will not have much time to talk about yourself and sell your service to the person standing in front of you. Whether you are a freelancer or a retailer, or any business owner, you really need to have a standard template that explains exactly what you do in a nutshell. This is important to help you build trust and establish in the mind of the potential client who you are, what you do and how you can essentially fit their needs. So here is the equation for a good elevator pitch:
I Help A to Serve B by Doing C
What does this equation mean? It means to talk about how you help people in general. Basically, who are you serving? Your target market is A. Define this to the person you are networking wih. Next, you explain what is the problem you are trying to fix for the person you are serving? In other words, B is the problem you are trying to resolve. Finally, how exactly do you plan to deliver that solution? (so C is the solution you are proposing). You will need to practice your elevator pitch over and over until it comes naturally. When you have a clear elevator pitch, you can use it no matter whom you meet, and where you meet them, confidently.
Adam K, who runs an established sales agency in the UK, quotes: “Do not Interrupt a group, but walk in, listen to the current topic being discussed and your opinion. Time your introduction, so that you don’t interrupt the group by introducing yourself”.
Balance The Conversation
The art of networking involves an art for listening. It’s important to be a good listener because there’s nothing more boring for the other party than to sit and listen to you talk about yourself only. Being a good listener means eye contact, showing interest in what they have to say, and recognizing that you listened to them. So, acknowledge that you have heard them and even praise their good characteristics. For example, you can say “Oh it is so rare to meet someone with such a niche skill like yours!” But be sincere with your compliment.
Enjoy The Events
Events are run for entrepreneurs, startups, SMEs, and other business owners in several hubs. An example of a good channel for introduction is DTEC – or In5 which runs advisory sessions, cloud services, banking events, accelerator events, and more! These events are an opportunity to learn and network. Be playful with your conversations because ‘play’ creates creativity. In other words, break out of the robot type of speaking (phatic speech) and enjoy the flow of the conversation. A lot of entrepreneurs like creativity.
Finish off the Conversation with a Clear Summary
Summarize why you are swapping cards and explain how you will add value to them. For example, you will send them a useful contact or link. This will become a more solid excuse to get in touch. And fulfill this promise and act on what you have agreed with them.
Once you have built a hot list of potential leads, you will need to follow up, then arrange meetings with the same person and perhaps more than once. You never build great friendships over one meeting – it takes years to build good friendships.
So don’t expect your networking to pay off within a few weeks or months before you see a good return on your investment.
Know your customer, ask the right questions, follow up and most importantly, be yourself! It’s Always The Right Time and The Right Place to Network.
Blog Prepared by Maha Ahmad, Freelance Blogger, firstname.lastname@example.org
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