Continuing on from my last blog, part one of my top ten tips to become excellent at networking, here we go with part two!

As I said in the first post: I love networking and I’m sharing what I’ve learnt from my own networking experience over the past fifteen years. I will now caveat what follows by admitting I don’t always take my own advice!

Top of any list of networking tips has to be: Get out there.  I know that sounds like stating the obvious, yet I know many people that don’t like networking and avoid it like the plague. It’s possible the term “networking” puts people off, if you are one of these people and you:

  1. Are nervous of networking
  2. Don’t see it as appropriate for your business
  3. Think it’s a waste of time …

… then think again. If you’re a small business owner, networking is essential. In an ideal world you will allocate time, resources and, if you have them, staff to it. Now – onto my next five tips.

6. Plan your 60 seconds

Let’s assume you’ve taken my advice to actually get out there and you’re attending networking events. In which case you’re sure to have come across the elevator pitch. This being the point when you stand up and talk about yourself and your business for an allotted time. Often this is sixty seconds. Why elevator pitch? Because the idea is that you should be able to present your pitch during a brief elevator ride.

Now I could do a whole blog on the art of a good sixty-second pitch. Instead I’ll highlight the important bits here:

  • Stick to your allotted time!  I cannot emphasise this enough!  It’s actually a bit rude and slightly selfish to go over and it also gives other people permission to then ignore the timings.  As a result, the event overruns and people get annoyed. 
  • Practice what you are going to say.  This helps ensure your timing is correct.  I’ve heard enough 60 seconds to know when someone is waffling as compared to someone who is succinct and to the point.  It makes suvh a big difference to how you come across if you have planned what you are going to say beforehand.
  • Start and end with your name and the company you own/work for.  It’s a good start and people get a second chance at the end to catch your name and company again.  It helps you to finish in a professional manner too, rather than trailing off.
  • Some great things to talk about are case studies, previous clients and how you helped them (be careful that you seek permission from your client otherwise don’t name them specifically), what you actually do, who you can help etc.  Focus on one ideal client as you don’t have too long.  For example, I often talk about my personal shopping trips, even though I do a lot more.  Another week I could then focus on a different service I provide.
  • Specify your ideal client so when you are asking for referrals, it’s easy for people to identify a good referral for you.  For example, mine would be a woman aged thirty-five who has two children.  She runs her own business and does not have time to shop for clothes so she needs to spend one day personal shopping with me three times a year where she can update her wardrobe.

7. Don’t be late!

If you’ve arranged to meet with someone (this is still networking!) then don’t be late.  It’s good manners and is respectful of another person’s time to ensure you are on time for the meeting.  If I’ve moved heaven and earth to have a coffee with you – I sort of expect the same from you.  We all lead busy lives so plan in advance and give yourself enough time to arrive at a networking event or one-to-one meeting with someone on time.

8. Do not cancel!

This follows on from the above.  I can guarantee that at least one meeting I have arranged during the week will get cancelled.  Of course, I understand that this is sometimes unavoidable.  If you have to do this, give the person you’re meeting as much notice as possible and suggest alternative dates to meet at the same time.  Do not cancel because you simply have too much work on! This is a personal bug bear of mine.  I am always busy, juggling two businesses, children, pets, clients and actually getting through the work.  If I can find time and manage my workload to meet you – once again, I expect the same from you.

The alternative to cancelling without notice is to pre-warn your meeting date.  For example, with my Swindon Will Writing business, I have to arrange Will signings that need myself, the client and their witness to be present.  Hence a lot of people need to be present at the same time. This will sometimes clash with my pre-arranged meeting because it’s the only time everyone can meet.  I always let my meeting date know and explain this is likely to be the only instance where we might have to re-arrange our meeting.  People are more understanding if they have prior warning and understand your position.

But, as far as possible, don’t use workload as a reason to cancel.  It assumes you’re busier than the other person and is a waste of their valuable time too.

 9. Collaborate, don’t compete!

There are several networking groups where rules are set so there will only be one person per industry e.g. only one accountant or solicitor or electrician.  This is great and the benefits of joining such groups can be huge.

Of course, there will always be other electricians, accountants and solicitors that people know so you know you will still be competing with them.  I find it’s so much nicer and easier to collaborate with my ‘competition’. Which is why I work with solicitors and other Will Writers.  We can refer clients to each other.  I also work with other stylists and we share our knowledge and experience.  Being in business on my own can be lonely and it’s great to collaborate with fellow business owners in the same sector as myself.  There’s enough work to go around and we are all individual.  One person may prefer me to see as their stylist or they may prefer Jane Doe, the other personal stylist.  That’s fine by me!  We all connect on different levels and I’m happy to do so.  Help each other out and you never know where it may lead.

10. Do what you enjoy!

If you don’t like certain formats or types of networking, don’t attend them.  Find the one that suits you.  It will be obvious if you are attending something you do not enjoy.  You won’t feel your best, and all your body language will scream ‘I really don’t want to be here!’.  So, you won’t be doing yourself any favours by attending things you don’t enjoy.  But that’s not an excuse to forget about networking.  Because there are so many different styles of events and groups, I can guarantee there is one out there for you.

I do hope you have found my personal networking views and experiences helpful.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that I am holding a workshop on 19th June. It’s all about how to make a great first impression – very important at networking events.

It’s also a great place to start some informal networking with the other attendees.  If you would like to find out more or book a place your place here.  Have fun networking!