Networking is all the rage. Whether you are just about to go out to a breakfast
meeting, lunchtime seminar or dive into a session on Twitter, Networking is time
consuming and addictive.
It’s very easy though, to forget why you network. For most of us running small
businesses, networking is the main way we attract new work and customers. But
it can also be one of the most daunting experiences. After 6 years, I still get
nervous walking into a room of strangers.
There are a few things you can do to make the whole experience easier
1) Treat each event/twitter session as a learning experience. What can you learn
about the people in the room? What do they need from you?
2) Don’t constantly broadcast your business. When people get to know you,
they’ll ask. Have a conversation with someone. I won a nice piece of business
from a client recently, who remembered me as the “guy who loves to rock climb”,
(and who knows about CRM). The fact was, I last spoke to him 6 months ago! He
didn’t remember the business, he remembered me.
3) Look for reasons to meet up outside the formal session. If you are interested
in what someone does, very often there’s no time in the meeting to have a proper
discussion. So arrange a coffee. More relaxed, less pressure, more conversation.
Again, you’ll be surprised at how much help people are willing to offer.
4) GIVE IT TIME! An awful lot of people give up after 1 or 2 meetings and say that
networking is not for them. Like everything it takes practice. You will get it
wrong. Give it at least 6 months, and you will get benefit from it, and will get it
right. You’ll never stop being nervous in a room full of strangers, but you will
earn the right to be there.
Finally monitor what works. Using a decent CRM system like ZOHO means that
you can record where your business comes from, which meetings, which
sessions on twitter etc.Still Sceptical? Around 70% of our business comes from networking. We
regularly review which meetings we go to, which events work for us and how
much time and money each takes. Fashions and meetings change so it’s
important to keep a fresh view that keeps you outside your comfort zone.
Zoho CRM manages and records all our contacts an opportunities, and where we
first met. We update it after each meeting and keep a brief note on conversation
we’ve had. That way, at the next meeting we only have to look at the summary on
the phone version to be up to speed. Saves time, money and makes Networking
much more relaxing!