Networking is a four-letter word for some people. It evokes feelings of anxiety and doubt. But, should it? While networking does pull you out of your comfort zone, there’s no reason why it should limit your business opportunities. Here’s how to overcome the challenges of networking so that you can make the most out of the event.
Get To Know Who’s On the Roster
Most events have a list of names of people who will be attending the event. Get your hands on this list. It’ll help you figure out who you should be talking to, who you need to dig deeper on to get intel so you can strike up a conversation, and even who you should avoid.
Be Comfortable Asking Questions
You must be comfortable asking people questions. Asking questions is also a great way to dodge the age-old problem of striking up a conversation. Most people get to “hello” and then they choke. Asking people questions gives you some space to listen to what others have to say – it also helps you form a strategy for subtly qualifying them as a prospect.
For example, if you ran a business like this ice cream packaging company, your ideal prospect would be those in the restaurant business or in the entertainment or catering business. You’d want to ask event attendees about what they did, what kind of food they served, and whether they’ve ever measured sales and conversions or upsells based on packaging.
There’s no two ways about it – if you’re nervous about talking in front of people, you need to practice it. The best way to do that? Go to a Toastmaster’s meeting. Sign up for Toastmaster’s, and keep giving speeches until you’re no longer nervous speaking in front of a crowd. Eventually, it’ll become second nature to you and you’ll love the opportunity to speak.
It may take you a week, several months, or even a year to get used to it. But, eventually, you’ll develop the type of communication skills necessary for good communication, negotiation, public speaking, and casual chit-chat.
You’ll also notice your sales and conversion rates improving due to the increased confidence you have.
Believe In Yourself
It might sound a little hokey, but you want to believe in yourself before you attend a networking event. Believing in yourself means having self-esteem, not feeling “beaten” or “defeated” before you walk up to someone and shake their hand, and being relaxed enough to have a conversation.
You don’t have to be in sales mode either. In fact, you should be relaxed enough to carry on a “normal” conversation. Networking events aren’t really about sales. They’re about making that first introduction and connecting with people with similar interests.
Your only goal at a networking meeting should be to ask questions, get to know people, and hand out your business card. That’s how you make a good first impression, and it’s the key to starting the sales process.
Will Collins owns a small business and is always on the lookout for ways to network. When he finds them, he likes to share them by posting online. You can read his articles on a variety of websites and blogs.