Whether you're an introvert dreading your next schmooze-fest assignment, or a social butterfly that can't wait to flutter around the room, event networking can be a challenging task.
Remember the old adage: Quality, not quantity. Working a networking event successfully doesn't mean getting business cards from 75% of the people in attendance. At a 2 hour business breakfast or lunch event, focus on making meaningful connections through real conversations, not on adding a bunch of meaningless contacts to your CRM.
This is a marathon not a sprint- it's very likely you'll find yourself in a room with the same group of people again and again. While it seems antithetical to move slowly, particularly when you have sales goals hanging over your head, it's the best approach for sustainable success and generating consistent word-of-mouth referrals.
There can be a tendency for even the most genuine, earnest person to be someone their not when attending a networking event. Don't put on airs, or play a role you think you should play — most people worth talking to can sense the facade and will tune you out. Be real. Be genuine. And listen. Sounds simple but it can have a huge impact on making real connections that can produce results later on.
Ask Thoughtful Questions
When you plan on only having 2 or 3 meaningful interactions at a networking event, it's easier to listen. And when you listen with interest you can ask great questions, which is a win-win. Your contact feels you're engaged and are interested in what they have to say and you now have a chance to better understand their situation and potential pain points. Ask. Listen. But don't look to solve anything- this is the first step in a longer process. There will be a time and a place to pitch your business and offer solutions to what pains them.
Bring People Together
Don't be afraid to connect people or businesses that you know might be able to help one another. Successful networkers know that helping others- even if it won't result directly in new business for your company — is a great long term strategy for referrals. The person you help today might be the network connection that delivers your dream client to your doorstep a year from now.
Great networkers stay true to themselves, seek to have meaningful interactions, strive to help others solve problems and understand new business development must be a focused, well-paced process for it to yield sustainable results.
So, when you find yourself entering the fray at your next schmooze-fest, check your schmooze at the door, be yourself and take it slow. It will pay off big time.
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