How to improve your net worth with your networking strategy
The idea of walking into a room full of strangers scares most people. As an entrepreneur, how can you change that fear into opportunity?
Amanda Hamilton-Attwell, 20 June 2016
How do you develop a strategy to improve your net worth by being a professional networker?
Firstly, change your mindset: see the room full of strangers as a room full of opportunities to be explored. Secondly, be strategic in building your network so that you don’t annoy people. You are not just handing out business cards; you are here to build new business relationships.
Four ways to become a professional networker
Bear the following in mind:
1. Be prepared
Attend the right events. Conferences, meetings of businesses and professional organisations are a good place to start. Conferences offer several opportunities to network with like-minded people, but due to the number of people attending, it may be difficult to find the right people.
Familiarise yourself with the theme of the event. Do your research about the topic and speakers, and prepare related questions that can lead to interesting conversations. Use these questions strategically: people will remember you more for the questions asked than for pushing your views across.
2. Have a goal
Know what you want to achieve. You might want to meet two people in the profession with whom you can do business, for example, or get 50 business cards from people whom you can add to your database. Your goal will determine your networking pitch and whom you talk to for how long.
3. Pitch like a professional
Most people at such events don’t know each other, so introductions will be an important part of every conversation. Prepare a 30-second pitch, knowing that you might not have time to say everything you want.
Start with your name, surname and role (not MD or CEO as nobody wants to network with such senior people, so rather try calling yourself a senior partner), your business’s name and what benefit it offers. Focus on the correct wording: focusing on what your product achieves, for example, “We improve employee productivity,” is more meaningful than simply saying, “We train people.”
If you have time, you will add what is unique about the way you impact your clients. Allow the person to introduce him/herself. A clever way to start the conversation is to close your pitch with a question relevant to the event and your business, for example, “What is your view on the productivity of employees in your industry?” Then you introduce the need for your service/product!
4. Behave like a professional
It is important to look professional. Have your business cards readily available in a professional looking holder. Don’t scratch around to find a card: it will limit your networking value. One cannot network effectively with a glass of wine and a small plate and holding a handbag. Network before you get something to eat.
Quick tips to improve your net worth
- Do not be negative about anything: neither the event nor the weather nor the traffic
- Do not bad mouth anybody—not even politicians!
- Be knowledgeable about the topic to be discussed at the event or conference
- Always get permission before calling and making an appointment
- Practise your pitch
- Listen to the person you are talking to. Do not look over their shoulders to see whether there are other more important people in the room
- Always wear your name tag on your right side: when you shake hands, it is in the ‘line of sight’ of the other person
- Remember that the other person also wants to make new connections: help them to build their network as much as you are building your own
- Follow up and follow through: send that email, make that phone call and include their contact details in your database; otherwise you are not building your network!
- Have fun!
About the author
Dr Amanda Hamilton-Attwell is the founder and executive director of Business DNA, a communication consultancy. She has extensive experience in small business development. She was awarded fellow status of the Gauteng North Chamber of Commerce and Industry for her contribution to the development of business. The National Youth Development Agency contracted her to conduct research into the factors determining the success of entrepreneurs. She completed an internationally acclaimed programme in business coaching. Contact details: [email protected], 012 346 2600 or www.businessdna.co.za