No scene likes a party more than the London agency scene. Client new product launches, office moves, summer parties, Christmas parties, or parties for the hell of it…. you can be sure that if there’s a reason of any kind there’ll be a cork popping.
Partying is all well and good but for the savvy new business representative, it also presents a valuable opportunity to network.
But how to take the plunge and make those vital connections that can lead to new business?
There’s definitely a personality element to networking - after all you are going to speak to complete strangers.
Rule of thumb is ‘Be yourself’. It could be dangerous advice in some cases but there really is no point in pretending to be something that you are not.
Networking is not about hard selling and while deals can certainly be done at a networking event, is advisable not to be too pushy.
Ultimately you are not at the function to sell - although it's great if the phone rings when you're back in the office.
“Use the opportunity to build your group of useful contacts. Some may never be your customer; you may be theirs -- for specialist advice or skills or components you need to improve your business. That's the value of a network,” advises Chris Oakley, CBE and. Chairman of Chapter Eight.
“The networker needs to know the company's services or products inside out and be able to talk informatively about them with enough awareness to know when information overload becomes boring.”
He adds, “Generating a spark of interest and an exchange of business cards is better than turning brains numb with information around a dinner, lunch or breakfast table.”
Networking is usually characterised by actual events that managers attend, but it is much more than this.
The first pitfall people often fall into is going to the wrong event. Do your research. Find out who the guests or participants are and how they might fit with your business needs.
Often there is more than one event in a city for a particular sector. Find out which one the key people in that sector put in their diaries as a must attend and pay up to be there. At any function, watch the wine intake.
It's amazing how many businessmen and women enjoy the event just a bit too much and what a negative impression they create, undoing any good work from earlier in the day.
Successful events are a skilful mixing of pleasure and business, something to come away from feeling usefully informed but reflecting on a happy occasion.
The Must DO’s in Networking – by Vince Golder of Goldnet Referral Marketing.
DO: Maintain a professional “Referral Mindset” as you network. It’s better to listen and learn from other people to build relationships before you start asking for things.
DO: Learn everything you can about the people you meet, including what their business goals are, what kind of customers they are looking for, and how you can help them find what they need. When you help them, they’ll not only feel obligated to help you in return, but they’ll want to help you in return.
DO: When you network, have a prepared “script” of sorts in your mind which, in about 30 seconds, clearly describes your business, its benefits and the kind of people who might be your ideal customer. Some people call this their personal “sales message” or “elevated pitch”.
DO: Put forward a presentable public image. People judge you by your appearance and manners. Do you look and act like someone people want to know better, and would feel comfortable referring a friend to?
DO: Go to as many networking events as you can. Become as well known as you can in as many different business, professional, social and quasi-social sectors as you can.
DO: Always go to each event “well armed” with business cards or referral cards. A referral card is a kind of enhanced business card which contains much more information than just the name and contact details of a business card, but can also contain a clear description of your business, what you do, the benefits and value you give etc.
DO: Be on the look-out for “people of interest.” Learn to identify people who are “centres of influence,” that is, people whom you know other people identify as leaders and whose opinions matter.
DO: Remember to follow-up on all contacts you make within 24 hours, before your meeting becomes cold in the mind of your contact.
And good luck!
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