5 Tips for Effective Networking

· by Steven Sawyer

Steven Sawyer started his career at HTI in 2011 as a Professional Recruiter. He is now the Director of Sales and Marketing.
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Whether you are working a booth at a trade show, attending a conference or waiting near the bar for your table to be ready, take advantage of the opportunity that you have been given to network. I have had people tell me they hate it – and I understand that. It can be uncomfortable to strike up conversations with strangers. It can be intimidating to see a group of people who are obviously acquainted and determine how you fit in. However, from a sales standpoint – I can tell you, it may be the best opportunity you ever have to gain a new client or valuable contact. Here are 5 tips to help you “work the room”:

  1. Be Prepared: Whether it is an organized networking activity or the random encounter at the coffee shop, you should be armed with your elevator pitch. A common question I get (and I am sure you do, too) is “What do you do?” or “Where do you work?” Being able to articulate the answer in a concise and effective manner is a great way to establish credibility in the eyes (or ears) of the listener. Practice your answer – over and over and over – until it is second nature.
  2. Actively Listen: You may be the exception, but many people enjoy talking about themselves or their business. Take a genuine interest in their responses and ask follow up questions. But be genuine. Ask something you may have always wanted to know, but had nobody to ask. You may find out something new or you may gain a new prospect account. Either way it is time well spent.
  3. Include Others: If there is a nearby listener, perhaps someone that is not as comfortable networking as you are, engage them in your conversation. Most trade shows or conferences I attend have the “Networking Lunch” on the agenda. Try to engage the table, not just your neighbor. Conversation will start to bounce back and forth and you will forget all about the chicken you are trying to politely finish.
  4. Know When to Quit: It is okay for the good times to end. After all, your new networking buddy may want to talk to other people. You will sense when it is time to end the conversation by body language. Remember the goal was to gain a new contact and maybe learn something new. Close with a handshake and offer a business card. Hopefully, you will get one in return.
  5. FollowUp: Usually when I am handed a card – I will jot down a word or two on it as a reminder of something I took from our conversation. Maybe they are a user of your service or maybe you promised to send them an interesting article you just got done reading. Either way, if you fail to follow up within 48 hours, they may not remember either. And, please, send them a personal email or handwritten note – don’t stick their info in an email distribution list for that initial follow-up.

Like most things, to be an effective networker, it takes practice. An important thing to remember going in is you aren’t trying to make a sale on the spot. You are meeting people and growing your network. You can accomplish more in an hour of networking than in a week of cold calls. Good luck and happy networking.