Tips to Network by Chris Williams

I read this short article today on LinkedIn that offered some great advice about how to Network. 

I am so glad I took the 5 mins to read it.

Chris Williams, The Chairman of the Small Business San Diego Group wrote the following: 

It can be intimidating to walk into your first business mixer and confront a room full of complete strangers. Just putting yourself in the room is a big step, but you’re still only halfway there. I’ve been networking for over a decade and am now the leader of a growing business referral networking group here in San Diego.

Over the years, I’ve seen many newbies and more than a few experienced networkers make very common networking mistakes. I’ve “been there” and “done that” but today, there is no time to make networking mistakes.

Here are five simple, tried-and-true business networking tips that will help you become a master business networker on your first day!

Handing out Your Business Card is Not Enough!
Many business networkers count their success by the amount of business cards they can give out by the end of a networking event. These are the people who quickly dive into a group, pass out their business cards, and then leave.

Do you think this is really a good way of building strong relationships? Nope! I believe that a business card should only come out after you’ve made a legitimate connection with someone else and they’ve expressed a clear interest in you, your product, or service. This primary purpose of networking is to build relationships, not make shallow contacts. If you make three real connections in a night, you’ve done far better than the guy who tossed out 50 business cards to people who won’t even remember his name the next day.

Listen and Remember
The best networkers know how to listen as well as talk. Of course, you’ll want to introduce yourself and give your elevator pitch, but make sure you actively listen to the people you meet. Make an effort to remember their names, their companies, and their products and services. If you can remember someone’s name at the next meeting and a fact that they shared about themselves, you have an immediate conversation starter.

Focus on the Benefits of Your Products and Services, Not the Details
Come prepared to your first networking meeting with your pitch. This is a short explanation of your services or products. Many people, including veteran networkers, spend their whole pitch explaining the details of their products or services. It would be like me describing what I do like this: “I help clients design visually pleasing email templates, write compelling email content, build their mailing list, and construct email marketing campaigns.” Sounds kind of boring, right?

I’m listing all the features. Here’s my real pitch, which focuses on the benefits of my service: “My team and I design marketing campaigns that brings qualified prospects to your business who will buy from you and result in dramatically increased sales.”

That’s a pretty big difference between the first pitch and second, right?

Look for Referral Partners, Not Customers
Another big mistake I see is business owners prowling networking meetings for potential clients. While it is not uncommon for networking peers to use each other’s products and services, this is not the primary purpose of business networking. Your goal should be to build referral relationships.

After all, a single person can only be one customer; while they may be able to refer dozens of new customers to you. Through business networking, we leverage the power of our tribes to make strong referrals to each other, which is a lot more productive then everyone just trying to sell directly to everyone else.

Rinse and Repeat
Building relationships takes time. You may not get a lot of results after your first networking meeting, but the next time you come back, you’ll see a few familiar faces who can introduce you to more people. Maybe you’ll get your first referral. At the next meeting, that referral will give you a great testimonial, which will lead to more referrals. The more you put into networking, the more you’ll get out of it, so commit to regularly attending business mixers and networking meet-ups in your area!

If you happen to live in the San Diego County area and want to meet a bunch of ambitious, professional people who are eager to network with you, check out all of the San Diego chapters of the Small Business Referral Group.

I really feel this is insightful and helpful advice. I recently attended my first business network event. One that is directed for moms in business. It really fell flat for me. I couldn't help asking myself, "What did I do wrong? No-one is interested in speaking to me. Do I look too young? Am I overdressed?" I felt like a high schooler that was not in with the cool kids. The single connection I made was with a women, that did not work and was there as a guest and for the food. All the other ladies I spoke to were polite, however not one of them seemed interested in talking to me or with me in any way. I didn't even get past the "Hello, my name is ....." part. It was "Hello, welcome. Nice to meet you. Have fun today. Goodbye."

I handed out one business card. To the hungry mom, who then judged my card saying she didn't like it since it isn't obvious to her what I do, even after telling her for 10 minutes.

I felt discouraged. Yet, after reading this article by Chris Williams, I feel renewed to work at it again. And like most small business owners know, networking is so incredibly important. So I am not giving up and neither should you.

Thanks Chris.

Catherine Shipman