Just where do I start?

When I was a novice in the accounting industry all the areas of networking and marketing publications were screaming out to me to read, digest and take action to make my business a success. But it’s all very well reading and skimming pages after pages but where do you actually begin? Isn’t one the same as the other I asked myself?  Obviously not, as each area has its own guide and principles. After writing each of them down, I categorised what they meant and what they can offer and how they can benefit me, I came across workshops for each as advertised, I called and arranged a booking.

This is where it all began…

What are the steps for effective networking?  Rather than reading a manual of how it’s done, having it broken up into steps is what helped me to remember the points, the rest just followed naturally.

So, to save you going through the same challenges I went through and to make head or tails of these workshops and networking groups, I have condensed in to a list for you to work off…

1. Introduction – introduce yourself confidently, concisely and to make a lasting impression.
2. Help others –  help by putting their needs first
3. Trust and reputation – vital characteristics for successful networking.
4. The right connection – choose the right networking or method for you
5. Plan your network – will help you utilise your time more effectively
6. Follow up – Be reliable
7. Be positive not pushy
8. Your efforts

Step one– The introduction – this is often called an elevator pitch.  It’s as though you are meeting a client for the first time in an elevator and you have enough time to brief exactly who you are and what you do before the potential client steps out.

My introduction of less than three minutes was something I knew I had to prepare for.  To introduce myself in a way that impresses them enough to ask for my contact details and take interest in my business. For example:

“My name is….” smile; look into the eyes, shoulder back, look confident. Vital to speak with confidence as first impressions don’t get a second chance.

My Company is …” say it with pride but not arrogance. Perhaps throw in a one-liner of what it is if the name is ambiguous.

Tell them why it’s great; to mention key words attracts a potential client. It is something that gives you a cut above the rest.

Step two – Help others – Think of ways to help your audience, if you are seen as a person that is helpful then they are more likely to help you too in return.  Networking is a slow but rewarding process and patience is required.

Step three – Trust and reputation – We are all humans and from time to time humans make mistakes, we can however learn better values from making mistakes. Failing to admit the fault can do more harm. Building trust and reputation is one key factor in all relationships, therefore it is essential to admit, apologise amend as soon as it has occurred.

Step four -The right connection – To chase after every networking opportunity that comes along is not the right way to go. Search for networks which run well and decide for yourself which can be most helpful to you. Networking with two or three people in a session is more effective than trying to spend two minutes each with everyone in the room.  Some will approach you. Professional people such as journalists, college lecturers, magistrates and medical professionals can also prove to be helpful network contacts.

Step five – Plan your network – Before any networking event set your goals and be clear as to what you want to achieve. Do you intend to fill the gap in the market? Have you found a niche market that sets you aside from others? As you will be asked directly by potential clients and having clear answers will make you look your ready for yourself and for them.

Step six –  Follow up – A person who keeps their word and follows up on promises or commitments is automatically setting themselves to establish and on the road to maintain a reputation. Don’t expect them to chase you. You can only build relationships with a follow up.

Step seven – Positive or just Pushy – A warm smile goes along way and someone who is smiling is seen as an approachable person.  Going out of your way to show your friendliness shows a positive person.  To gain clients never criticize others instead win them over by being patient, objective, and enthusiastic. Remember you are inviting them to be educated in your area of specialisation and this is your one opportunity to share your expertise with your audience. So don’t forget to smile and look confident. If like myself you get a question thrown at you which you feel you cannot answer or makes you feel weak at the knees, don’t be afraid to tell them that you would get back to them on an email. After all not everyone knows everything.

Step eight – Your efforts – Networking is a big part played I found in an effective marketing. It is focused highly on creating awareness with the benefits you offer. Building relationships with potential clients leading to (fingers crossed) a sale. Consistent involvement and regular networking events leads to valuable business relationships

Networking Opportunities can range from: exhibitions, conferences and seminars, Chambers of Commerce, shows and galas, clubs and Pubs (minus the alcohol!)

If you are already on the common networking sites, why not use them to your professional advantage? Set a page on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or try a dab hand at writing or contributing to a blog.

All in all, the best way to approach is be yourself, confident and collected. Letting your potential clients or customers see who you are can be a sale in itself!


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