Business networking is one of those things that garners mixed emotions within people. On one hand, networking for business does give an opportunity to meet new people and the potential to expand your business. On the flip side, very few people like going for a networking event and being “sold” products and services that don’t suit their needs; this includes trying to convince others to buy your product or service when you met them moments before.
So how can we successfully network for business? What should we know before going to a networking event and how can we easily meet potential prospects without sending them running out the door at the first sight of us?
How To Successfully Network For Business
Back in 2013, I had the honor of emceeing an event called WeWorld Global Summit. It was a fantastic online event whereby women were given an educational platform to support each other around the world and become self-sustainable through business. In other words, this online summit helps women learn what they need to learn in order to start their own business and make it successful.
While at this event, I had the privilege of presenting a professional networker and author of “Walk In My Boots” named Bonnie Ross-Parker. During the summit, she gave the virtual attendees some real golden nuggets of how to network successfully. The following are two tips that stuck with me the most.
Two Tips to Successfully Network For Business
1. Sell by NOT Selling
It almost sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Many years ago when I was a wide-eyed first-time entrepreneur who was hungry to make an impact, I would attend various networking events with one thing in mind: to sell my products and services. I went to Toastmasters, Business Networking International, Expat Mingle Events (I was living in Malaysia at the time) and every free talk and seminar I could attend. Before I knew it, I had actually turned a lot of people off to my business and myself as well, and for good reason!
Imagine being invited to a fun wine-tasting event, deciding to go with a couple of friends, and the minute you walk in you are swarmed with people talking about their new-fangled invention, or this great business opportunity, or some scheme to build up your family’s wealth. Personally, I have been in BOTH shoes: I have been the over-zealous saleswoman, and I have been the patron coming in to meet new people who left early due to being so turned off by everyone who had something to sell.
My advice? Or better said, what I learned from Bonnie Ross-Parker? Treat everyone like a FRIEND first. When you bump into a friend of yours, what is the first thing you do? OK, if you hug your friends, maybe this wouldn’t be applicable to a first-time meeting…everyone has their personal space after all… Usually, people say “hello” and ask them how they are. In fact, when I see my friends I usually ask a lot of questions! How are you? How is your family? How is work going? Have you sorted out such-and-such? Do you need any support?
The same goes for a first-time meeting: treat them like a friend by asking lots of questions and by being genuinely interested in them. Open-ended questions are the best as they get the person to open up and describe themselves and their vocation.
2. Be Of Value FIRST (Be a Friend!)
Being eager or passionate about your career is a great quality to have, but when attending a networking event, your goal should not be to sell others, but instead to be of value first. This does several things: one, it makes you memorable. I honestly cannot remember a single face (or name) of any of the people I have met at past networking events who were only trying to sell me.
I honestly cannot remember a single face (or name) of any of the people I have met at past networking events who were only trying to sell me. I remember feeling put off and I eventually found an excuse to leave the conversation and go meet with other people. Those I DO remember ended up becoming friends of mine. These were people who I felt didn’t have that hidden agenda with me, who were really interested in who I was and what I did. I ended up making some life-long friends from some of these events; some of which I later started successful projects and businesses with.
Keep in mind when a person refers a business to you, whether it be a really great restaurant, an awesome product, or a fantastic service, more-often-than-not they are referring someone who is either a friend or a business that knocked their socks off. My suggestion is to be a friend first, and a business owner or entrepreneur second. Why? People are more likely to think of you and remember you when you have been of value to them; even if that means having afternoon tea on a Saturday while your children play together, or touching base with a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.
As humans, we naturally want to support our friends. So one great way to network for business is to be a friend first!
In summary, networking for business in Springfield, Missouri is a great thing for both your personal and professional life. John C. Maxwell said, “Your net worth is your network,” and I have to agree with him as I have experienced this for myself first hand. I have friends all over the world including Thailand, Holland, Malaysia, Singapore, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Cuba, and it had nothing to do with my extraordinary selling capability, and everything to do with simply being a friend: the rewards of which I am still experiencing to this day.
If you are a woman and looking to make new friends, please come for our monthly Ladies’ Night Out event! It is held in a different local restaurant the first Wednesday of each month in Springfield, Missouri. Paraphrasing a life lesson from Bonnie Parker-Ross, you never know who you will be of value to, and who will be of value to you. So come out and make some new friends!
Wishing you fun and fulfilling friendships ahead!
WeDames, our little home-grown organization, is all about women in Springfield, Mo. Aside from being an online women’s magazine and women’s community, we love bringing women together in local restaurants and businesses in the spirit of fun. Part of our women’s networking includes hosting women-only events in and around Springfield. Ladies’ night out is one such example, and is an excuse for us ladies to get dolled up, look our best and hang out with and schmooze with other awesome women in Springfield, Mo.
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