41% of professionals believe that face-to-face marketing at business event is the most effective way of finding customers. This shows that while networking as a marketing activity has translated well to the online space during the pandemic, there is still a big belief in the value of in-person communication and its importance for generating new business.
There are many reasons why business networking is important for entrepreneurs, but here we will give our best professional networking tips, both offline and virtually.
Our Top Business Networking Tips for Business Owners
Choose the right event for you
Your time is valuable, so make the most of it by going to networking events that are suitable for your business. Why not ask around your local community and see if anyone has any suitable event recommendations? Have a look on LinkedIn and Eventbrite to find any events that are happening in your area.
But remember, networking is not necessarily an event. You can network in any social interaction so it’s important you are prepared to talk about your business at any time, which leads us to the next step…
If you are attending an event, read-up on the speakers or attendees beforehand. Also, make sure you’ve got enough business cards. Business cards are old hat, you say? Well, apparently not. In 2019, 90% of business owners found that business cards generated new business!
Another way to be prepared is to make sure you have ‘elevator-pitch’ ready. It’s important you can articulate what you do in a short, concise manner.
Saying that, everyone will have an elevator pitch but how can you make yours different? Could you build what your business does into an analogy or emotive story?
Here’s an example from TAB – “Get me out of the Quicksand.”
Memorise your elevator pitch, in a few different versions so you can tailor it to the situation and audience you’re facing. For example, something more creative might be appropriate for an event where you can stand out, while a simpler approach would work if you’re chatting to someone one-on-one.
Set reasonable expectations and objectives
When attending a business networking event, set yourself some objectives and what you want to get from the event. Why are you going? Are there certain types of people you want to approach? Set yourself a target and stick to it.
Ask open-ended questions
If you’re networking with someone, make sure to ask open-ended questions. Those which ask who, what, where, when, and how as opposed to questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This form of questioning opens the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them.
This TED talk, by Celeste Headlee, details 10 ways to have a better conversation.
Listen carefully, maintain good eye contact, never interrupt and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Win people over by sharing enthusiasm for what they do.
Networking isn’t a competition
Remember that you are not competing with anyone here. Focus on building relationships, growing your database of contacts and work hard to actively maintain them. Keeping leads warm is important and can lead to business in the future.
Network, don’t sell
In a similar way, don’t jump in to sell too soon. You’ll have more chance of success by making genuine conversation, building rapport and showing interest in what the other person has to say.
It’s important to follow up your connections.
Remind them of who you are and what you do, provide them with access to more information and a means of progressing the relationship.
Are you running a webinar or an event that you could invite them to? Have you any white papers, case studies or interesting content they might enjoy? This is a natural way for them to end up on your company’s website and continues the conversation.
By offering them something else, other than your product or service, the question of selling will be a lot easier and smoother in the end.
Additional virtual networking event tips
Most of these tips translate to the virtual environment but there are virtual business networking tips and best practices to also consider.
A stable internet connection
It goes without saying that you need a stable internet connection to connect with someone virtually. To avoid any technical glitches, test everything before an event or meeting begins, including your video and audio.
Make sure you look presentable at virtual networking
There might be a temptation to attend virtual networking in your pyjamas or comfy joggers. However, it is important to get yourself into a professional mindset so make sure you look your best on virtual events. Our webinar, ‘Expert Tips on How to Look Your Best on Video Calls’ might be helpful here.
Boost your online presence
The use of platforms such as LinkedIn to build connections has increased during the pandemic. So, is your LinkedIn profile up to date? Optimising your online presence, not just for you as an individual, but also your business’ brand is imperative for the success of virtual networking.
Quite often people on video calls are likely to search for you or go to your website as, in contrast to traditional networking, they are already sat at a device. It would be a shame to work hard at a virtual networking event to then be let down by a lack of professionalism online. You can make an awesome first impression with your LinkedIn profile, if it’s done well.
Final tip – Evaluate the offline and virtual networking events you attend
Take time out to evaluate your networking.
- Was the event right for you?
- Did you achieve what you set out to do?
- Can you get any feedback?
- How many promising relationships have you developed as a result of the event?
- What will you improve next time?
Ultimately though, successful business networking is all about communicating your passion for your business and how it can solve problems for the people you are building valuable relationships with. If you keep that as your key focus, you cannot go far wrong.
If you want to read more about networking, we recommend The Jelly Effect by Andy Bounds to our members. In fact, business networking is made easier with TAB and if you want more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch about TAB membership.