A Guest Post by Michael Deane
Networking is a crucial activity when it comes to growing your business.
According to some surveys, 35% of people surveyed landed a business opportunity as a result of their casual LinkedIn conversation.
Given that you can greatly benefit from connecting with people from your industry or niche, it’s odd that so many people don’t put this activity into their schedules like they do with their formal meetings.
So, the sky’s the limit.
However, while being persistent and assertive is something that’s highly recommended, it’s relatively easy to cross the line and come off as pushy and desperate, and nobody likes that. So, here’s how to polish your approach and successfully build meaningful relationships.
Do Your Research
Find out who the speakers will be at the conference or what industry leaders will you have the opportunity to meet.
After that, start running a background check on them, make a plan, and craft a pitch in order to present yourself in the best light.
LinkedIn should be your first destination where you should establish whether you have some mutual connections with the persons of your interest. If that’s the case, it’s always a good idea to ask your existing acquaintances to give you a referral. Or you could name-drop and mention your respectable business connections while you’re introducing yourself to somebody new.
Just don’t overdo it, and make it sound natural.
Also, learn more about their business history and see what happens in their current company, so that you can discuss that too.
If you find an article they published or if there’s a recent great achievement they accomplished, make sure to share your opinion about it and praise them. You’ll disarm them with your genuine interest in their work.
Besides, being thorough and detailed are highly desirable traits in the business world.
OK, although this seems like common sense, many people tend to be overly eager to hit their networking quotas and as a result, they start cutting in on people.
Active listening is an essential skill which you have to master if you want to develop your network and business. Not only will this show your prospects that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say but it will also give you an excellent opportunity to learn as much as possible about the people you talk to. This can be of use when you follow up with them as you can add a suitable context to your outreach.
And, you do follow up, don’t you?
You’ll, hopefully, meet a lot of people in all these events.
So will the others.
This means that you shouldn’t wait for too long in order to follow up and strengthen your newly acquired connections.
First of all, add them on social media, or to be more precise, send them a connection request on LinkedIn.
Use the knowledge you gained during the previous step to come up with a pitch which will intrigue your prospects. Send them a personalized email suggesting that it would be a good idea to take your professional relation to the next level.
Even if they don’t immediately respond or agree to meet you, don’t give up.
Remember that you’re dealing with busy professionals who usually have to squeeze a meeting or a call with you into their hectic schedules.
Of course, bring your business cards (and/or other promo materials) to networking events, but make sure that your main activity is collecting cards.
This tactic is much better because it puts you in control regarding the follow-up.
You won’t have to wait for the other person to remember and drop you a line, which can, frankly, be annoying especially if it was your plan to pursue a certain influencer from your niche.
Instead of that, you can be the one who initiates the contact, which also means that you can prepare in advance and be ready.
Don’t Talk too Much
Particularly about yourself and your company.
It’s OK to say a few things about your business and agenda in order to introduce yourself and explain why you think it’s a good idea for the two of you to connect. Mention only your mutual interests and benefits, and don’t get carried away and be too enthusiastic about your company and achievements.
So, again, the code phrase is “active listening.” Apart from being invested in the conversation with your prospect, try to pick up their cues and establish rapport.
Don’t Beat Around the Bush
When you approach someone, especially when you want to ask for advice, don’t shy away from expressing what exactly you need and expect from them.
Although this may seem like a pushy tactic, it’s actually what people want. They don’t have time to listen to a lengthy introduction to your question. Instead of that, go straight to the point.
If you’re too subtle and vague, people won’t be able to decipher what you’re trying to communicate.
This will prevent them from helping you and providing you with benefits.
Expanding your knowledge and skills plays an important role when it comes to developing your business.
So, attend different kinds of business events in order to learn something new, spy on your competitors, keep up with the latest trends in the industry and present your company from various perspectives.
That’s why you should attend workshops where leading experts from your niche share their expertise, experience, and best practices. It’s a great opportunity to actively participate and draw attention to yourself in a non-pushy manner.
Product launches will help you estimate how your company stacks up and what the latest trends are.
When it comes to trade shows, they’re extremely important as you get to showcase your company and products and attract lots of potential customers, which is why you need to put your best foot forward.
But, it’s crucial to not limit yourself only to the events from your niche. Pick the ones from complementary and adjacent ones too, because that way you establish some valuable partnerships and open new possibilities to expand.
It’s tiring to pursue everybody you meet and invest the same amount of energy into every relationship.
Instead of that, make a plan and wisely spend quality time with people that you can benefit from and vice versa. By buzzing around and introducing yourself to everyone that comes along won’t bring you actual results, because these brief encounters aren’t strategically planned.
Focus your time and energy on fewer people and nurture these relationships, just like you would do in your sales process – only high-quality leads should get your full attention.
Don’t Be Creepy
Hounding speakers and trying to connect with someone who clearly has no interest in your pursuits is something that you should never do.
One of the previous sections instructs you to follow up persistently, but don’t be relentless. It’s a rule of thumb to contact the person you met in a networking event three times over a six-week period, and if they fail to respond, then it’s time to move on to other prospects.
When it comes to speakers, don’t forget that everybody else will try to reach them, so don’t spend too much time stalking them around.
It’s much better to focus on the people sitting next to you as they’re more approachable and willing to help.
Moderation in all things. That’s the best way to avoid coming off as annoying and too pushy. Try to make a good first impression and be friendly and helpful, but don’t outstay your welcome and turn into a nuisance.