“Hi, I’m so-and-so. I sell cars.” This actually happened to me at a recent business luncheon.
What’s wrong with this intro? It’s shorter to list “what’s right.” The listener immediately knows the person’s name and they know what she does for a living. That’s it. Conversation stopper.
The goal of effective networking is to meet new business professionals who have the potential of becoming either customers or referral partners. In order to accomplish that goal, you need to engage them in a conversation and actually learn something about them, about their business and about their target client. You can’t do business with them or refer them to someone who needs their services unless you know what they do.
The goal of effective networking is accomplished by asking someone what they do for a living. Listen to their answers and continue the conversation with clarifying questions; be genuinely interested.
When it is your turn. . .
When someone asks you what you do for a living, respond with something fun, curiosity generating, or at least conversation generating. The statement “I sell cars” does not generate any curiosity, fun or even an easy opening for more conversation. It is a one-and-done statement.
Another example is “I help you attract and engage your ideal client.” That statement opens the door for effective networking. The listener is probably an entrepreneur who would be eager to attract and engage more of their ideal clients. The frequent response is, “How do you do that?” or “Tell me more.” In any case, the door is open for continuing the conversation.
Your opening words present an opportunity to further the relationship. Engage in an actual conversation; tell them a brief story of how you helped solve a problem for one of your clients. They will give you clues through their questions of what aspect of your business is most pertinent to them.
Part of effective networking is to follow up with your new acquaintances after the event. Schedule a time for a coffee chat to develop the relationship. At the very least, be courteous enough to send a follow up email letting them know you enjoyed speaking with them; if at all possible, include a statement which lets them know you do actually know and remember them. Sometimes I have included a reference to the person who introduced us.
The fortune is in the follow up. Effective networking requires an ongoing relationship. Touch base occasionally to remain “top of mind” for them and to let them know you remember them.
Summing it up
Look the person in the eye and truly listen and respond to them. The goal is to learn more about the person and form a new relationship which can be mutually beneficial.
You’ve experienced “grab-your-card-and-go,” conversation stoppers and “eyes darting around the room seeking an escape route” networkers. Set the high bar for effective networking.