Last year, £2.4 BILLION was passed in referrals through one networking organisation alone (Source: BNI) so if you, as a small business owner, want a share of that massive pot of sales then you're going to need to improve your networking skills.
I know it can be a pain to network sometimes, but it's one of the best ways a small business owner can build relationships with others and grow their businesses locally, I think is really important for owners and entrepreneurs to proactively network especially if you are looking to grow your referrals and work with local offline businesses.
I want to share with you 6 ways that you can improve your results from networking through organizations like BNI, 4Networking, Chamber of Commerce, and FSB etc,
1. Perfect Elevator Pitch
Make sure that you have a perfect pitch for the type of event you're at.
In other words, make sure that your elevator pitch is refined and well structured so that when someone does ask you what you do, you're not put on the spot and won't have to think of something to say right then and there.
It helps to know a little bit about the audience too in advance so if they are all local businesses you can have a pitch suited for them as opposed to being at an event with your peers or other industry people.
A great example of how to structure your elevator pitch is tell them what solution you offer or what problem you solve, rather than just what you do.
2. Personal Branding
The second step to being a better networker is to work on your personal branding. This doesn't mean your logo or your flyers or business cards but more about getting others to know who you actually are.
You'll have heard many times over that people buy from people who they like and trust, and by creating a powerful personal brand you can make that process much easier for others to like and trust you.
3. Give Before You Take
The third step is to give value before you ask for it in return.
This step is perfectly illustrated in a book called The Go Giver which is one of my favourite books by good friends of mine in Florida, Bob Burg and John David Mann.
The book talks about the '5 laws of stratospheric success' and shows you why it’s better to be a go-giver than a go-getter.
4. Your Sales funnel
The fourth step is about making sure you have a well structured sales funnel to take your leads and prospects through. This is important for those who you will meet at the networking events OR who will be referred to by people you meet.
One of the biggest mistakes I see when I go to networking events is that people do not have a good follow-up system in place. You want to make sure your sales funnel is setup and automated or systemised as far as possible BEFORE you start collecting hot leads from events.
5. Don't Be A Hunter
The fifth tip to better networking is to avoid making rookie networking mistakes. Things like collecting everyone’s business cards and then mass subscribing them to your mailing list without their permission is not nice, and people will like you less because of it.
6. Leverage With Social Media
The final step is to use the internet and social media tools to leverage and strengthen the relationships you create at a networking event.
I always make a point of reaching out to anyone i meet through Twitter or LinkedIn, just to continue that relationship and conversation online.