Relationships – the key to successful networking

Networking sessions (the sessions themselves, not the entire seminar) last for an hour or so and often times the entrepreneur feels the pressure to make that connection. Whilst the real reason behind networking is to meet people who can help your business in some way, these types of contacts can only be made through building relationships.  So, how do you walk the fine line between pitching for business and establishing a genuine bond?

  • If you aren’t fully comfortable talking to strangers or if you are new to networking, ask the host of the event to introduce you to some people they feel it would be beneficial for you to connect with.  As connecting with people is what you are there to do, any good host will be happy to introduce  you around.
  • Ask questions that will get the other person talking, e.g. what brings you to this seminar? How did you get into your chosen profession?
  • Asking questions that gather information will allow you to get to know someone on a more personal level and further opens up the possibility that you can both have a relationship outside of the typical networking relationship.
  • If possible, when people are talking try to link the other person’s responses to your own experience. For example, if they are in the jewellery business and you know of someone who is thinking of entering that field, ask them for advice on how your friend would get started.
  • Even though you are there to build your business, so is the other person.  Find out if you can assist them somehow, e.g. ask them: ‘What can I do to help your business grow?’ ‘How do you think we  can mutually work together?’  ‘What is the best way to refer someone to you?’  You lose nothing by asking these types of questions and people will remember you for your willingness to assist them, rather than just being out for yourself.
  • When asking these questions pay close attention to the answers they give you; their responses may reveal potential business opportunities that will benefit you both.
  • HAVE FUN!  Don’t pressurise yourself into believing that it is all over if you do not make the connection you want there and then. There will be other networking events, and the experience you have gained up until that point will ensure that with each one you attend, you are better equipped and one step closer to making the contact that could turn your business around.

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