Netoworking events are not the only opportunities you have to network. There are opportunities to network everywhere you go: At the dentist office, at the gym or even in a crowded store. Most of us do not take advantage of these opportunities out of fear of being considered too pushy or developing a reputation as just another nagging salesperson. The amount and effectiveness of the networking that you do plays a very important role in the success or failure of your business. So how then do you network effectively without being perceived as a pest?
Stop worrying what others think
Start by not worrying so much about what other people think. People will develop their own opinions about you no matter what you say or do. What people think about you, whether good or bad, is out of your control.
Talk business second
If you are the first one to speak, never start off talking about your own business first. Instead, ask about their business and listen carefully. Even if you don’t have much interest in their business, be sure to ask them a question or two to let them know that you were listening. If they say anything remotely related to your own business services, wait until they are finished speaking, then point out the relation between their business and your own. Next, begin explaining about your business services. They will likely give you the same respect by listening attentively as you explain your business. If they ask you a question that you didn’t already answer while you were talking, then you know that they were listening and that you were able to network effectively. Exchange cards with them and follow-up up with an email the very next day, stating how much you enjoyed learning about their business and reminding them of your business services, as well as any special promotions that you may have.
Promote outside of networking events
Let’s say you’re in the waiting room at the dentist office and the person sitting next to you strikes up a conversation about the weather or any general topic. How do you use this networking opportunity to your advantage? Situations like these should be handled differently from professional networking events. You should bring up your business services carefully, and don’t offer additional information by telling them that it is your own business services that you are referring to. Instead speak of your business in third person, as if you are giving a referral for the company. You want to be sure to brag on the company as much as possible and maybe even tell a funny story to go along with it, something to help them remember your company in a good way. People will remember your stories more than they will remember your advice. Aesop’s fables have been remembered for centuries, but Aesop’s thesis sentences wouldn’t have made it 5 minutes.
Always carry promotional materials
After you have finished telling your story, suddenly remember that you have a flyer/brochure from the company on you and be sure to give it to them. You want to be sure that you carry flyers/brochures with you wherever you go. Keep them in your car and put them in your pocket or purse whenever you are in a public place. You may even want to get a set of business cards with only your business name on it to use for these types of brief networking opportunities. This may seem a bit underhanded, but it has been my experience that people are more apt to use the services of a company which has been referred by someone who has used the services and can vouch for their good work.
Keep the story going
Bottom-line, network, network and network some more. Always network and keep the story going. Have you ever seen someone you knew after 20 years and said to yourself, “Wow, this is really a small world”? Well, it really is a small world, and news travels fast, which is why networking is a key element in growing any business.