Author: Jacqui Brook

It’s a resounding NO from me, though you might not feel like this when you have gone to 10 networking events in 2 weeks and nothing comes of it, not even a coffee catch up or a glass of wine!  Another annoyance, often networking events are in the evening, eating into your valuable personal time and you just want to go home, wind down with Netflix, your partner or your family, kids and furry children. 

Maybe this is where you are going wrong.  The success to networking is not the quantity of events that you attend, however, it is down to the quality of the events and the people you connect with.  One key tip from me is:

  • STRATEGY. One missing ingredient I see pop up continuously, is no strategy and no clear purpose. Yes we all love this word and with networking you must have one.

This is the building blocks to successfully generating a profitable sales pipeline of leads, connections, support networks, collaborations, likeminded friends and mentors. 

Some of my best friends have come through my networking circles and have been invaluable to me over the last 7 years, leaving the protection of the corporate world is very scary and I value these connections. Keeping me sane, having my back and the strength to continue in the consultancy world successfully and have a happy demeanour!

THREE KEY ESSENTIALS TO DEVELOPING A KILLER NETWORKING STRATEGY

One – Networking is Marketing.

  • Work out your key goals and objectives for 2020. This should link into your business, marketing and sales strategy.
  • Set targets against your strategy and a timeline of conversion.
  • Create a financial budget for what you want to achieve. This really changes the whole networking mindset and makes you accountable. 
  • Identify the industries and business leaders you want to target.
  • Know your business pitch off by heart, making it compelling, enticing and relevant to your audience. Another essential tip: keep it short and sweet.

Two – Networking  Purpose.  

In developing your strategy work out your purpose for networking.  In my opinion this falls into 3 categories:

  • Generating sales leads. Remember that sales is about nurturing and creating a relationship. Understanding their pain points and how you can help them.
  • Collaborations.These are key for start-ups, when budgets are tight, collaborating with key influencers and businesses can help grow your pipeline. 
  • Develop your business skills and knowledge. As we all know, one thing which is constant is change, attending industry events to increase your business knowledge and expertise is paramount to your strategy succeeding.

Three – Understand Your Audience 

  • When you have selected your key networking events, this could be paid events, industry networking groups, Chamber of Commerce events, mentoring groups and online groups through Facebook and LinkedIn. Do your research and fully understand your audience with whom you are connecting with.

Always Follow Up 

  • To be honest, not following up is just rude. Another thing to put into your plan is how to follow up.  With technology so present in our business lives, you could suggest a Zoom or Skype call to validate the opportunities of this connection.    Then meet in person if the potential lead is hot. If your gut is telling you “this could be huge”, then meet in person. Connecting via LinkedIn should be an automatic response and be done within 24 hours with a personal note.

THE ART OF LISTENING

It is so important to listen when you are at your selected events and never become  “THE GUSHER” (personally I want to walk away from these people at networking events, though I am too polite)!  The relationships you create, it is key to nurture these, be respectful and treat your connections in the way you expect to be treated.  There is no magic trick to networking, though one is listening! 

I sat next to a wonderful lady at the Budget networking breakfast earlier this year and we started chatting about the state of our economy, as you can imagine that broke down quite a few barriers and by listening to her issues we made a strong connection.  I followed up and 3 months later she called me and we met.  One key think which came out of this, was I listened to her issues and from our meetings trust developed. 

UNDERSTANDING CORE BODY SIGNALS

I was taught this in my previous corporate life, how to understand and read the body language of the person you are connecting with.  This was one of the best courses I have ever done, thank you, corporate life.  This subject matter should have its own blog, though here are two take outs that I would like to pass on to you:

  • Twitching head and eyes – you have made the brave step of engaging with a future connector or a group of likeminded business friends and a conversation starts. If you notice their head is nervously moving and eye contact is definitely not on you, politely finish the conversation and exit with pride and confidence.
  • Arms folded like a draw bridge – if you approach someone and their arms are firmly crossed, try to bring down the draw bridge by listening. If their arms do not relax, move on quickly to the next opportunity.

With 2019 coming to an end, now is the time to sit down, reflect and develop your networking strategy for 2020 with drive, authenticity and a passion to succeed.

Author: Jacqui Brook
The above article is based solely on the opinion and experiences of the author.