One of the best ways to gain new clients is through word of mouth and not by directly selling your services. Get out there and talk to people about what you do. A great place to do this is at networking meetings.
These meetings come in different shapes and sizes: some are early in the morning, others are mid morning, lunch or even dinner. Some meetings require a membership and monthly commitment whilst others are pay as you go. Go to several in your area and find the one where you feel the most comfortable. You can usually go to the members events as a paying guest without any further commitment.
However, it’s not just a matter of turning up, selling your wares and passing round your business card. Follow the tips below to get the best out of networking.
1. Practice Your Pitch
Many networking groups allow you to stand up for a minute and introduce yourself, often known as an elevator pitch or your ‘one minute’. Practice your pitch several times before you go, in front of family or in front of the mirror and practice again on the way there. The more you practice, the less tongue tied you will be when you are speaking. However, it’s perfectly acceptable to read your ‘one minute’ from a script if you are very nervous. No one will judge you.
Ensure you say your name in your one minute. I’ve heard several people stand up and by the end of it I still didn’t know their name. After one minute, which for some seems a long time, ensure that people know how you can help them.
For more help on writing your one minute, read this blog post.
2. Take a deep breath
Walking into a room of strangers can be stressful, even for the most experienced of networkers. But I can assure you that almost everyone in that room will feel nervous before going in, wondering who they can talk to and if tehre’s anyone they know. Just before you enter take a deep breath, smile and walk in.
Again, just before you stand up for your one minute, take a deep breath, stand up, smile and start talking.
3. Find out about the other person
Networking is not about promoting your products and services. It’s a two-way experience and is about building relationships with people. And to build a relationship with someone, you have to get to know them.
Start chatting with someone – after all, that’s why they’ve come to the meeting too – and find out how they are, what they do and how they help people. As you get to know each other, the conversation may move to less business chat and more personal. Don’t worry if they haven’t asked about you, just know that you are building up a relationship with them. Quite possibly, you’ll find things in common which can lead to long friendships.
Plus, it’s quite possible that what they have to offer can help you grow in your business.
4. Don’t Sell
If fact, don’t even mention your product or service. People will switch off very quickly if they feel they are being sold too.
Explain how you can help people and solve their problems. Someone with back pain doesn’t want to know the ins and outs of your therapy, the theory behind it and price. They will, however, be interested to hear how, for example, you can improve their pain and help them sleep better without being woken up by that pain.
5. Enjoy Yourself
Remember that being in business and networking can be fun. Try not to get too worried about your elevator pitch. Just take a deep breath and smile. Who knows who you will meet at networking – I know of two people who met at a breakfast meeting and are now engaged! Enjoy yourself, make friends, build relationships and take the stress out of finding clients.
6. Follow Up
There’s a saying that the ‘fortune is in the follow up’.
The follow up after the meeting continues that relationship building. You’ve probably spent money going to a networking meeting so make the most of it and don’t just add business cards and flyers to your piles on your desk.
This doesn’t mean you can add people to your mailing list. That is a complete no-no!
Instead, email attendees separately, saying how lovely it was to meet them and hear about their work. Try to refer to a point they mentioned during the meeting to show you’ve have remembered them. Suggest a 1 to 1 meeting over coffee so you can both find out more about each other’s work. You can then spend more time explaining how you help people and outlining your ideal client to them. Again, it’s about building relationships so that people hold you in mind when either they need what you offer, or know someone who does.
Let me know below your experiences of networking. What’s worked for you, or what hasn’t worked? Have you had any great experiences and long standing client/personal relationships as a result of networking?