5 ways to succeed at a networking event

Zoe Hanks

Zoe Hanks

Zoë Hanks MSc, Managing Director, Grassroots Ideas Ltd. is our newest leader writer and we are delighted to welcome Zoë on board!.

Grassroots Ideas are a vibrant and passionate ethical communications and branding agency who are strong advocates of a more socially responsible way of thinking.

Zoë’s background in international Marketing, Branding, Communications and PR – along with her ‘glass half full‘ attitude to life and good sense of fun – delivers real tangible results to the businesses and individuals she works with.

This month Zoë, in line with our investigation into Social Enterprise, looks at Youth Entrepreneurship.

Networking is like a work of art. There is a lot that goes into creating a masterpiece – and when done right the results can be amazing. On the other hand, however, you can try for years and never quite get it right. Networking is about building relationships and that takes time – and success in both art and networking is incredibly subjective. Lots of companies have their sales force out beating the streets and getting into every networking event they can get into. Think about this, “Is your company growth solely dependent upon your sales team”? The companies that are really making a difference are the companies who teach everyone to network. When you can educate your team about ‘The Art of Networking’, you will be ahead of the game.

Networking is the best way to grow your business. The amount of growth is immeasurable because the sky is the limit when developing relationships, and ultimately people buy from people. Word of mouth networking has been around for years and is absolutely the best marketing you can have – particularly for SME’s where marketing budgets can be limited. It is truly a reflection of how well you take care of your customers. The better the relationship, the more word of mouth referrals you get. The true Art of Networking takes “Word of Mouth” to a whole new level. Networking allows you to create your own personal sales team, design your own marketing strategy, educate your sales team and most of all be accountable for customer service.

How do you feel when someone comes up to you while at a networking event and throws an elevator pitch at you? If it is not a product that you are interested in purchasing, doesn’t it sound a bit like having the Avon lady knocking at your door? Personally, I like to hear success stories that I can pass on. Have you ever walked out of a networking event with a story that you can’t wait to tell someone else? If you have, then the person who told that story gets “networking”.

Here are five ways to creating your networking masterpiece:-

1. Have a business card that someone can write on. When you receive a business card, write down where you met this person.

2. When speaking with someone, ask who is their target position within a company? Now write on the card what type of connection they are trying to make. HR? GM? Office Manager?

3. Ask them to tell you a story about someone they helped. Try not to ask “What do you do?” Ask for a success story so that you get a better idea of how they help people.

4. If someone asks you first, “What do you do?”, tell them a story. Share a story with them that gives them the type of customer you helped, what was their problem, what product or service you used to help them and most of all, how did they benefit? Think about, “How much money did they save?” or “How many positions did they save?”

5. Follow up. Following up is like painting a picture, letting it sit and going back for touch ups to bring it to life. The follow up is the most important. After leaving the networking event, send emails to the people for whom you have a new card. Thank them for sharing their story and either ask them for a one on one or try to connect them with others who are working with the same company contact.

Not everyone is going to be the perfect contact for you, but this is where the ‘Pay It Forward’ approach comes in. Each person you help will in turn help you. And that can only help you spread the word about the great stories your company wants to share. You also need to make sure that not only your sales team but the whole company is aware of all your success stories so they can share them when appropriate. It may not even be at a networking event, it could be at a dinner party, on the golf course, even when out shopping.

You see, just about anywhere you are, and there is an opportunity to “network”. That’s why it is important to share stories and build those relationships. A success story is like a wonderful painting, it is appreciated by all. Educate others about the company successes and see for yourself the power of creating a masterpiece.

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