Networking. Some people love it. Some people hate it. Some people are expert networkers. Others, not so much. How about you – where do you fit in? Even “good” networkers have an off day, right?
Several years ago, before I even considered jumping into the fray, I had dinner with a colleague (we were part of our university’s alumni board of directors) and I was fascinated to learn that he had not one, but two more meetings after our dinner! First of all, I admired his stamina, and secondly, I was in awe of his “busyness.” What a popular guy!
Here it is several years later and last week I found myself having a series of back-to-back days, with multiple networking events to attend. Luckily, for the most part traffic cooperated and I was able to make all my meetings. Some things, however, were out of my hands, such as the venue for one of the events turned out not to be available (someone walked off with the keys). We ended up meeting at a nearby restaurant.
So. Given that we must meet as many potential clients as possible, we need to get out and do a bit of the meet-and-greet. Consider flexing your “yes” muscle and taking on new opportunities to meet people. You can be really focused and drill down deep into industry-specific associations and events – expertise has value and is a really good way to grow your business. Pick a niche, learn as much as you can about a particular area so you can provide greater service to your clients.
But don’t forget you can also find clients in social settings as well. And by social, mostly I mean meeting people outside of your specific field. You never know whom you might meet. It may or may not be a direct customer acquisition; it may end up being a referral. So say yes, and learn to meet people from different arenas.
Feeling nervous? Just say “hi!” A warm smile helps, too. Extend your arm in handshake mode and say “Hi, my name is____. What’s your name?” People will automatically respond to an outstretched hand and welcoming smile. My modus operandi, in particular when I’m just not feeling it, is to act as host – even though I’m not necessarily the person holding the event. Making others comfortable takes the pressure off me. Introduce the party to others you have met at the event, if you feel it will be helpful, or even just to widen the conversation and potential opportunities. Becoming known as a “business connector” widens your sphere of influence – you become the person to know.
Networking can be considered a bit of an art, more so than an exact science. But there are certainly specific steps you can take to fill your world with many conversations had and business deals done!