Networking – more than just a random occurrence…

As with all things a little planning will go a long way.  Think about it like this; would you go into a business meeting or conduct a presentation without any preparation? No… Then why would you leave your networking opportunities to chance? When you take a little time to set a plan and strategy, you will not only make stronger connections you will have more fun doing it!building trust

* What will occur at the event?
* What type of people will attend this event?
* Are these the type of people whose business I can help and whom can help my business?
* Ask if a list of attendees or companies is available. If yes, review the list.
* When possible go in pairs – pair up with others that also want to make the most of their opportunities
Next step:
Once you have determined targeted events to attend, create a list of people you want to meet at each event to build relationships with. This can range from general items such as Title, Company, Industry, etc. or can be specific names of contacts.

After you have those items decided on comes the part that most people fail at & the only reason is they do not prepare. If you go blindly into a networking event with only the weather to rely on it is my hope it is because you are a meteorologist and it is what you do for a living… otherwise the weather might leave the conversation a little dry or cold.
Create and practice a few OPEN ENDED questions. Open ended questions keep the conversation from getting stale as most people will not embellish creating a great conversation instead they will reply with one word answers leaving you hold the whole evening on your own. Some of us can do that and do it well but without a double sided conversation you might as well be talking to the wall. Try the following questions to get you started and remember if you are targeting a certain industry or person knowing what they like (do your homework) will help you create your own set of conversation starters!

* What is your favorite service or product your company offers?
* What other type of products or services do you offer?
* What do you like the most about what you do?
* What other groups are you a member of?
* What new is happening in your industry?

Tip: Use the phrase “tell me more” or “that’s great I’d like to buy you a cup of coffee and learn more sometime”… The first will keep the conversation going and the second will get you a follow up meeting.

Another great way to keep connecting with others during an event is to offer to make introductions. Offering to work the room together with a new connection will keep you moving and will open it up for your new friend to introduce you around as well.
When making new contacts ask yourself; can you help them and can they help you? Remember that the purpose of building relationships is not just to get their business, but to get the business from everyone they know as well!
Relationship building is not about the immediate sell. It is all about building lasting friendships for referrals that will continue to come year after year because you took the time to really make an honest connection.
Next Blog: THE FOLLOW UP – conceivably the most important part of networking!

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