“Every big opportunity starts with a little conversation”
By David Nelson
Our Tuesday night Advice Clinic, the first of 2019, was a great topic with an even better presenter. Nicola Taylor, from Utility Warehouse, took on the challenge of making us better at Networking than we were before (and I say challenge because personally I’m not the biggest fan of talking about myself or talking to a room filled with people I’ve never met before, and I’m sure I’m not the only one).
We asked our attendees to write the answer to one of the following questions (anonymously) on the board before beginning the session, and these were some of our reactions:
What do you hope to get out of today’s session?
- Tips on how to interact with a closed group of people (who all seem to know each other) at a networking event
- How to comfortably talk to people that I’ve never met
What are your biggest concerns about Networking?
- Feeling like a fish out of water
- Getting my message across effectively
How does networking currently make you feel?
- Stupid (mind blank)
So needless to say we had a great crowd who were all there for the right reasons.
Nicola instantly put everyone straight to work with an ice breaker to get us feeling a lot more comfortable around each other and proceeded to go through the structure of networking from open events to the more structured (or closed events) and the benefits of attending both, open being that they are more highly attended and often a bit more loose whereas the more structured events can offer more chance to build relationships as you are likely to see people on a regular basis and get to know like and trust them.
Nicola touched on the importance of goal setting before heading off to a networking event or embarking on networking as a marketing strategy. Quite often, people go with the wrong goal in mind… to sell. If you fail to provide yourself with a goal before you attend the event it could end up being a complete waste of your time and as we all know when you own your own business, time is money! So make sure you decide why you want to go, who you want to speak to and that it is for the right reasons. The biggest thing to remember when you are networking is that you are not walking into a room of prospects, they are there for the same reasons you are, to grow their own business.
One of Nicola’s favourite phrases is “every big opportunity starts with a little conversation” and you’re more likely to want to buy from someone you have bothered to get to know on a more personal level. Tell them about your hobbies, find a common interest if you can, and build on that. Not only will it get your relationship off to a good start but it will make you more memorable to the person with whom you are speaking as to what you do as a business. This also makes you easier to refer on, because you never know who is in their primary or even secondary network.
We took the opportunity to work on our introductions in the second half of the session and paired the more experienced members of the group with people who didn’t feel as confident and got some great results. Nicola also touched on the importance of following up with someone you have met and what it actually says about you if you don’t! If you have promised to email them or arrange a coffee and a chat but never follow up, how unprofessional will it make you look? And do you really think they will want to re-engage with you if they see you at another event let-alone think to refer you? They are more likely to think if you don’t follow up with fellow business owners when you say you will then how they know you don’t treat your customers the same way?
The biggest trap people tend to fall into at a networking event is when asked the inevitable question “what is it that you do?” people always want to put on their best happy face and tell everyone how great it is and how busy they are! Stop. It’s great to let people know you are doing well, but its unlikely people have come along to a networking event because they are so busy that they can’t take on any more work. The right response that you should consider is “yeah, it’s really good, but at the moment I am looking for an introduction to X person/company,” this response makes you 100% more referable than the previous. Not only that, but it’s a specific referral. And they just might respond the same way back to you, allowing you to potentially refer them and build on your relationship.
Essentially what I want to make clear to you is, it’s ok to be human! We aren’t always busy/happy and successful all the time. Everyone in business has up’s and down’s, it can really help to be honest and admit when everything isn’t always 100%! This is true in all aspects of our business and is a mind-set we are particularly trying to change at The Business Clinic – We want to encourage business owners to flip their thinking and speak up when they have opportunities or challenges and need guidance within their business. Let’s support each other and work together so that we can grow stronger and be part of our local business community. If you would like to find out more visit www.thebusinessclinic.org
So thank you Nicola for opening our eyes to the effective communication required at a networking event and how to put it into practice! We had feedback at the end of the session from Eric saying how he found the importance of planning and preparation before an event to be “something to focus on” and another attendee said “I thought Nicola was very down to earth which was refreshing. She gave very useful feedback that I will take to further networking events in the future”.