What is Networking?
Networking is a form of marketing by which individuals and businesses develop and maintain contacts and personal connections with like-minded business people who might be helpful in developing business opportunities. Networking is a two way process getting to know people, finding out how you can help them, and what they can do for you. The emphasis is on relationship building and reciprocation.
Networks rely on word-of-mouth communication and recommendations. The most effective networkers are people who show a genuine interest in others, are willing and enthusiastic to provide help and support, and always follow through when they say they are going to do something.
Businesses are increasingly using business social networks as a means of growing their circle of contacts and promoting themselves. Most business networks provide a structured yet informal environment for this. There are several prominent business networking organisations that create models of networking activity that, when followed, allow the business person to build new business relationships and generate business opportunities at the same time.
Before you start networking, it is important to build a clear picture of what you have to offer other networkers and the type of networker you want to meet.
“Don’t tell them what you do… Tell them what you do for them.”
One of the basic rules of selling is to sell on the benefits customers will gain from using the product rather than the list of features it has. Computer adverts are good examples of this: listing megabytes, gigabytes, RAM, dual core processors and more details that are meaningless to many customers. Tell me what it can do for me is much more relevant and meaningful. For example: it’s the size of a hardback book; you can store 200,000 music files on the hard drive; the battery life is 6 hours, etc.
One approach to defining your offer is to begin with an analysis of the features of a product or service you offer, and the benefits of these to the customer. Features and benefits help us to clearly describe a product and service in such a way that it allows the customer to easily and quickly understand what you can do for them.
Introduce yourself and your business in 60 seconds
Everyone needs to know how best to introduce themselves so that others understand who they are, what they do, and how they can add value in a way that doesn’t leave people gazing off into the distance.
Instead of an immediate rush of information, it is better to let people get to know you through the conversation. When we first meet someone, we’re taking in the non-verbal cues (body language, presence, style, etc.) and usually thinking of what we’re going to say, so we are not really listening to them fully. It’s more important to build rapport and common ground and then gradually feed your message into the conversation.
Composing a Networking Message
Your message must engage the other person and be easy for the other person to pass on. This is not a script! It should sound natural, relaxed and you must adjust the message to suit the person you are speaking with.
Firstly, consider what messages your prospects might be receptive to. When interacting with a prospect, you must first seek to understand what’s going on in the other person’s world. Then and only then will your ideas be accepted and understood by the prospect. Do not talk at them.
Then you can move on to what you have to offer and why the prospect would be better off using you rather than a competitor.
The five sections of the 60 second introduction are:
Section 1 – Introduction (15 seconds) Name, company, location, what you do.
Section 2 – Focus area (15 seconds) What is your unique selling point?
Section 3 – Story/testimonial (15 seconds)
Tell a story about something that has happened recently that might interest the prospect i.e. “we recently worked on a project with the well-known company x.” Remember to differentiate and emphasise your benefits, not features.
Section 4 – Call to action (10 seconds)
Is there a call to action? Or more subtly a suggested call to action, i.e. “we are always happy to visit new clients for a free health check.”
Section 5 – Memory hook (5 seconds)
Leave the prospect with something memorable about you and your business.
After this, you enter into ‘Section 6’ (timeless), now you should ask your prospect about their business, look interested and ask questions!
Once you have constructed your 60 second message it is a good idea to practice it