Networking seems to be something everyone does, but it also seems to be something everyone hates at the same time. Why do people hate networking events so much? Is it the constant feeling that everyone in the room is just saying what they think you want to hear so you’ll buy whatever they’re selling that day? Or maybe it’s the fact that honestly you don’t feel like anyone in the room is actually going to buy what you’re selling that day, so it feels like a waste of time. To me, networking is not only fun and should be treated like a social event or even a party, but it’s also very effective. Let’s find out what it takes to make networking work for you.
Step One: Know
The first Step to networking properly is getting people to know you. Well, you may ask, “Stephen, how am I supposed to get a room full of strangers to not only know me, but remember me?” Start with a thirty-second pitch to get people to know you. Something short, sweet and to the point. But remember, you want people to not only know your name, but remember it as well. Going up and just saying, “Hi, I’m Stephen and I am a photographer,” will not get anyone’s attention. Not only will people not remember me in that case; I left no room to move the conversation forward.
How is anyone going to know you based on your name and what you do? If you’re having a hard time thinking of a thirty-second pitch for yourself, then hire someone to help you out. When you are selling a product, you wouldn’t hesitate to hire someone to help you market and sell that product, right? So why would you not hire someone to help sell your image to others? Now that people know your name, where do we go from here?
Step Two: Like
No one wants to do business with people they don’t actually like. I don’t care how much money someone is paying you, if you hate the person you are working for, or with, are you really going to enjoy doing the work? Now I’m not saying to try and get everyone to like you. It’s not going to happen no matter what you do. The best thing you can be is genuine. If someone doesn’t like you at a networking event, move on! There is no reason to sit there and waste your time trying to get someone to like you when there is an entire room of people to get to know. Being true to yourself is going to build real relationships, and that’s what you are looking for when you are networking.
Remember, these people you meet most likely won’t be your clients, but are more likely to refer you to friends, family, and business acquaintances. To form genuine relationships, you want to be able to understand what kind of person you are talking to. Start by figuring out if they are more goal oriented or more moved by feelings. A person who just wants to think about fun and excitement isn’t going to want to hear the statistics of your business, and someone who is very focused on their goals doesn’t care about how cute your puppy is. Understanding who you are talking to and how to talk to that person most effectively will speed up the process of someone getting to know and hopefully like you.
Step Three: Trust
Now the main goal of networking is to get people to trust you. If someone doesn’t trust you, they aren’t going to do business with you. So when you are at networking events don’t go as a salesperson. You are there to make relationships, and if you are just trying to make sales, no one is going to want to give you the time of day. Start by talking to them and exchanging business info. Never just give them your card, or take theirs. Always exchange and set up a meeting for another time. This process is called BAMFAM—book a meeting from a meeting. This will make it way easier to build a lasting relationship with someone.
So you have been to a few events, booked meetings after and built a relationship with new professionals and new friends. How does this end up helping you if you built a friendship, instead of building up your client list? These people that you spent time building relationships with are at networking events for a reason. They are meeting new people in all different fields who all need something done. They are going to refer you because they know, like, and trust you. So instead of going to a networking event and gaining one client, you have essentially created a sales force for yourself—people to spread your name and what you do, so you don’t have to do all that work.
The next time you go to a networking event, are you going to be trying to sell a product or service, or are you going to be the person selling your image? Do you want to be that person who always goes to networking events but isn’t having fun, or do you want to go and actually have a good time because you are being yourself and making new friends? Try to remember that Networking isn’t only about selling, or gaining business today, but is also building long-term friends who will gain you business in the future as well.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.