Effective Networking

By Catherine Lang-Cline

“I see you everywhere!”

That is what I hear, but honestly, that can’t be true because I can’t be everywhere. But I do make where I do go really count. Like most people, when you first start networking, it can be difficult. You search the room over and over for someone that you might know and then never leave their side for the entire event. But you know that you are there to get a deal, a big deal; that is what networking is all about, right? Not exactly.

Be confident in how you talk about yourself.

Let’s start with how you talk to people about you. What do you say to people? Many times I have heard entrepreneurs say, “I am just a start up.” “It’s just me right now.” “I have just this small business… “I am handling all the work I can.” All of these statements are awful. If you are saying this, please stop. Just those few words could not make me less interested in doing business with you. I like to work with people that are confident, people that see themselves as a thriving business. So talk bigger. “We are experts in …” “We are eagerly looking for ….” “We have # years expertise in this industry….” What? There is no “we?” Think again, because unless you are selling yourself as a consultant, you are a business made up of many roles. Yes, they may be currently all you. But a one-, five-, ten-person shop doesn’t matter; no one else needs to know that but you. Because you will find a way to get any size job done.

This is not the time for a sales pitch. 

On the other side, I hear a lot of business owners and people that work for someone else try and sell me too hard. I have just shaken your hand and you want to know if you can sell me your goods or services. The quick answer is “no” because I don’t know you, which means I do not trust you to enough to give you my money. Trying to build a relationship with me that is not all about you. Really listen and really hear what I do, what my struggles are, even what brings me to the event today.

Listen first.

Overall, talk to people and listen to people like you are their partner in business. Approach networking as a “what can I do for you?” experience vs a “who can I sell to in here?” Sales are important. But, again, no one buys from someone they don’t like or someone that immediately wants something or that they don’t believe they can complete the work effectively.

Build relationships, not prospects. 

Next up, you need to decide where to go to network. If you are new to networking, I’d advise you to go to as many events as you can just to practice your networking skills. After you are feeling more comfortable, you can get more strategic. Start going to events where your potential clients may be. Go to events that people in your industry attend. Attend events where you can get to know the game-changers first hand. Then tell everyone what you do. Note how I didn’t say sell to them. Get to know the people in your industry, learn what they do, and find out who you can help, even if it means you connect them with someone else. People remember that. I have had many, many conversations with people that buy nothing from me. But they might know someone that does need our services. I have also gone to networking events that turned into me joining a committee or the board of the hosting group. This is solid gold way of getting to know people better and getting to know who they all know in your industry. It’s about expanding your web. You could also consider sponsoring an event. Mentioning that you are a sponsor when introducing yourself tells people that you care about the people involved in an event. A little skin in the game is always a good thing.

What you will find is that the more events you go to, the more people remember you, the more people learn about what you do, how much you care about the industry you serve, and the more people will either use your services or happily recommend you.