September and October are traditionally popular months for networking, events, seminars and exhibitions. How do you decide what events to attend and how do you get the best value from attending them?
- Do your research – Search Google, Eventbrite and networking sites to find appropriate, events, or exhibitions to attend. Ask yourself, where are your most valuable or key target customers likely to visit or exhibit. Note, there is also value in building relationships with business associates, such as those in the professional service sector or suppliers of your target customers as these contacts may help you get introductions to future clients.
- Don’t sell, it is all about building relationships and contacts – you need to Meet, Know, Like before you obtain Trust, then you can sell. This may take a number of meetings and can take years in many cases.
- Be consistent, don’t just go once to an event and think, “well that was a waste of time”. Be seen regularly at each networking meeting or event as this will help build relationships.
- Be prepared – always have plenty of business cards or handouts on you, wear a name badge, know your products and services, obtain an attendee list if you can this will enable you to target the contacts you want to speak to and follow up later.
- Be personable – use their name as this helps you engage and move through the meet, know, like process quicker. Ask questions and listen twice as much as you talk, recap on details discussed from the last time you met, i.e. where they have been on holiday, family, hobbies, business developments etc. A good tip; after each event, write down notes for each person you meet as you get in the car, which helps you remember for the next meeting.
- Show your expertise – people buy “Knowledge” – give free tips, advice, share contacts, introduce them to people you know at the networking meeting. You want to be remembered as being the person to go to, become a signpost!
- When asked “what do you do?” – give short examples and stories to explain where you have added value to a client’s needs. You are telling them your WHY! Why engage with you, creating further interest in you.
- Get there early, some of the most successful networking is before the crowds arrive and stay to the end, as some late arrivals will still want to meet new contacts even after the event has officially closed
- Set an objective, e.g. to get 5 business cards or contacts at each event. It is about quality discussions rather than the number. People buy people, so be yourself, don’t try and be someone you’re not.
- Finally and key, follow up, drop each person you meet a simple email, to consolidate the connection. Also connect with them on LinkedIn or Facebook, as the more touch points you create, the sooner you will build that trusting relationship.
Networking groups across Cumbria
- BECBC – monthly networking specifically focused on the nuclear, defence and energy sector supply chain, Energus Lillyhall, Workington.
- BNI – weekly breakfast referral networking, 1 chapters in Carlisle, 1 in Kendal, 1 in Barrow in Furness
- Carlisle Ambassadors – bi-monthly meeting for any business based around Carlisle
- CN Group
- Cumbria Chamber of Commerce – hold an array of events across the region and beyond, Network Five, after dinner drinks, in Carlisle, Cockermouth, network lunches across the county, cross border events with Northumberland, Lancashire and Dumfries and Galloway Chambers, Expo’s, speed networking etc.
- Rural Women’s Network – specifically for women in business with a number of groups across the region, whether your self-employed or MD of an organisation, go along to share tips, best practice and learn from each other
If you are looking to grow your business, Business Doctors Cumbria offer a free business health check where we can help you to set a clear vision and understand the steps you need to take to fulfil your aspirations.