It may not be for everyone and may seem daunting at first however well worth the effort, can be fun and of great value over time.
Some simple tips;
Do your research – Target the networking events where you’re ideal clients or their associates would attend, i.e. other businesses whose clients are your ideal customers.
Don’t sell, it is all about building relationships and contacts – you need to Meet – Know – Like – Trust, before you can successfully gain business. This may take a number of meetings and a year or so in many cases.
Be consistent, don’t just go once and think, “Well that was a waste of time!”, make the effort and be seen at each meeting to build relationships.
Be prepared – have plenty of business cards, handouts, wear a name badge, know your products and services inside out – get an attendee list if you can and make an effort to track down those who you want to speak to.
Be personable – use their name, remember details discussed the last time you met, i.e. holiday destinations, family, who they know etc. Top tip; write down/brain dump as you get back in the car after each event who you spoke to and what information you picked up.
Show your expertise – people buy “Knowledge” – give tips, advice, share contacts, introduce to other business people you know at the networking meeting, use examples and tell stories to explain where you have added value to a client’s needs, be remembered to be the person to go to!
Get there early, some of the most successful networking is before the crowds arrive and stay to the end, as late arrivals will still want to meet new contacts even after the event has officially closed
Set an objective – for example, to get 5 business cards at each event. Remember to have quality discussions rather than the number though.
Be yourself, don’t try and be someone you’re not.
Finally after the event – Follow up, drop each person you met a simple email, to say – “it was nice to meet you yesterday”, “loved to hear your story”, ”catch up again sometime for a coffee”, type of thing
They say that to obtain a business opportunity from a cold contact you need to achieve 13-15 touch points with them first. Meeting new business contacts at networking can speed up this process, can be fun and you will learn something along the way!
Networking groups across Cumbria
BECBC – monthly networking specifically aimed at the nuclear and energy sector supply chain, Energus Lillyhall, Workington. http://www.becbusinesscluster.co.uk/
BNI – weekly breakfast referral networking, 2 chapters in Carlisle, 1 in Kendal, 1 in Barrow in Furness http://www.bnicumbria.co.uk/index.php/find-a-meeting/find-a-chapter
Carlisle Ambassadors – bi-monthly meeting for any business associated or wants to be with Carlisle business communicty and the surrounding area – http://carlisleambassadors.co.uk/
Cumbria Chamber of Commerce – hold an array of events across the region and beyond, Network Five, after dinner drinks, in Carlisle, Cockermouth, Kendal, network lunches across the county, cross border events with Northumberland, Lancashire and Dumfries and Galloway Chambers, Expo’s, speed networking etc. http://www.cumbriachamber.co.uk/networking-events
Rural Women’s Network – specifically for women in business with a number of groups across the region, whether your self-employed or a female MD of an organisation, go along to share tips, best practice and learn from each other – http://www.ruralwomen.org.uk/networking.html
There are a many other business networking groups too – just google search or ask around