Have you ever been given ‘the look’ when you show up at work past the start time because you were are a networking event that morning or the night before?
Many business owners and managers struggle to comprehend that while it may appear that you attended a social activity, this is not for pleasure; rather it was time spent to develop relations that can evolve into a business. This is why it’s called a networking event.
What Are Networking Events?
Networking events generally take place outside of working hours because they are meant to be comfortable, a place to let your guard down, an environment where you are more relaxed and more open to meeting people.
This gives everyone the opportunity to connect and this means that it can lead to possibilities that may not be directly service exchanges, rather more of a referral nature. It all depends on how effective that relationship is and the time that went into nurturing this possible partnership or client.
What not to do at a networking event
Too often the expectation is to leave with a handful of business cards, or that by the end of the event you should have handed out a target number of business cards.
This approach fails for a few reasons. People don’t want to be sold to; they run away or try to exit that conversation as fast as possible. The other is they don’t yet know you, so why would they buy from you? How often do you see your business card laying on the floor? How often do you get a very cold, brush off response (if one at all), the next day when you are trying to follow up on the cards you collected?
Business Owners and Managers
Business owners and managers look at the lack of turnover from the ‘business cards’ collected (connections made) and say networking doesn’t work; then they criticize your “underperformance’ because you can’t generate new leads.
Business owners and managers need to realize that business development requires time; time to create a rapport and then to nurture it. This doesn’t happen overnight and yes, there does need to be a level of metrics to gauge the outcome achieved.
Create a strategy
Showing up is not a strategy! You need to apply ample research on the event and who is attending the event. This way you know who you will want to target. Create objectives of how you will develop rapport, what metrics you will apply to determine if you can take that relationship to the next stage or not. What is your plan for a follow-up and when will the right time be to offer services?
When creating your benchmarks, it would be a good exercise to include your manager or business owner in the conversation so together and as a team, you can develop tools, actions and language to use when measuring if that relationship has reached the desired stage.
Business development is not a sales call and time well spent at a networking event is hours spent on the job, so they should be appreciated not punished.
You will find that when you develop a proper networking strategy and cultivate the relationship you build, you will find them to be quite fruitful.