The key to business expansion is savvy networking, as this is where you can explore new leads and pitch your hosted desktops to businesses of all shapes and sizes. However, networking formats are constantly changing, with events taking on multiple shapes and styles. To help you get the most out of your networking activity, we’ve put together some top tips that will translate to increased profits in no time.
All types of networking events require participants to pitch their products and services in some way. It could be anything from sitting around a large table and each having ninety seconds of selling time, to getting together after hours for some nibbles, drinks and free-range mingling. Whatever the case, you need to be able to deliver a swift explanation of who you are and what you do – this is your personal pitch.
But that’s only the beginning, as your pitch will need tailoring to both the style of event and the individuals you speak to. If it’s a formal presentation to a group, it might benefit from visuals and client testimonials. If it’s a quick face-to-face introduction, you may feel it’s more appropriate to segment the information according to potential queries, such as “How does it work?” and “How will it benefit my business?” Fail to have all of the relevant details memorised and you could find yourself stumbling over key questions that would otherwise create a firm lead.
Business cards are seen as old-fashioned by some, yet they’re still incredibly powerful when it comes to networking events. Chances are there will be some people you speak to who don’t understand what hosted desktops are, so following a brief explanation the best call to action comes in the form of a business card, which can be referred to at a later date.
Your business cards should be treated with as much focus as all of your other marketing activity. Whilst there are some clever options out there, such as cards with an NFC chip inside that easily conveys digital information, sometimes less is more. What’s crucial is that the card is designed to reflect your brand and give your main contact details, which when combined with quality printing results in greater respect and trust towards your brand.
It’s true that you need to be professional and get your offering across eloquently when meeting new people, but that doesn’t mean it has to be all business. Some of the best networkers stick in people’s memories by being conversational and inquisitive throughout the exchange. This could be any topic depending on who you’re talking to, such as plans for the weekend, recent business trips, shared interests, charitable activity, or anything else that builds a rapport.
We’ve been to some networking events where people were talking about their pets for a few minutes, which though nothing to do with business went a long way to developing along-term working partnership. After all, people want to do business with people, not robots.
It’s tempting to think that the goal of any networking event should be “sell, sell, sell” but there’s more to it than that. It could be that aside from seeking new customers, you’re also getting ready to recruit a new member of staff or take on some freelance specialists. Perhaps you’re interested in becoming a mentor, joining the board of a charity, or delivering a few talks and workshops to students.
By adding flexibility into your networking, you’ll most likely make new acquaintances who open up exciting new opportunities for you. Some of these could actually lead to future sales, and all of them will enrich your personal brand by being known as someone who isn’t afraid to get involved in side projects.
Attending a networking event with a friend is always beneficial, and the more the merrier. This is the case for multiple reasons and you’ll wonder why you ever did these things by yourself.
First off, going together means that you all know each other’s objectives, so if someone you’re speaking to needs your friend’s services, you can recommend them, and vice versa. Then we have those moments where you find yourself on your lonesome, at which point you can easily join one of your buddies and seamlessly enter the conversation they’re having with a potential customer.
Another advantage is that if it’s a long session, such as an expo or conference, you can take a breather and chat with a colleague if you find your brain becoming a little frazzled. This will invigorate you so that you’re ready to head back in and start making promising connections.
It’s one of the age-old basics, yet it’s amazing how many people fail to make eye contact. Likewise, many networkers inadvertently adopt closed body language that makes them appear bored or uninterested, which isn’t only rude but can also completely shut down what could have become an excellent association. The same goes for good posture, nodding rather than verbally interrupting, and body orientation – don’t just look at the person you’re talking to, face them with your entire body.
It’s not a case of making constant eye contact and patting people on the back every five seconds (that can be pretty unsettling), but instead relaxing enough to come across as easy to talk to whilst showing a genuine interest in the conversation. You’ll soon find that you exchange a fair few business cards with true potential for collaboration, as nothing is more attractive at these events than polite, affable, insightful people who are clearly easy to work with.
“Be yourself” has always been excellent advice, although it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt at networking events. The technical term is reciprocal tonality, which means responding in an appropriate way to everything that’s being said. For example, if someone is clearly excited by something, the very least you can do is smile and nod, even if you don’t know anything about the subject matter. This makes them feel that they’re being listened to and opens up the conversation further.
Similarly, if someone is describing something that has clearly caused them a lot of stress, show a little compassion and perhaps explain that you relate if that’s the case, or offer a solution if possible.
A discussion can move on very quickly, so it might be a very tight window for responding in the correct manner and preventing an awkward situation. Just remember how you’d like others to treat you, put it into effect with them, and the conversation will surely flow without a hitch.
Time is money, and you’ve spent multiple hours over the last few months investing time into networking. But then what? Have you stored the business cards in a drawer and forgotten about them, or have you touched base with the people you spoke to? Continuing the discussion could very well lead to sales both now and in the future, plus it’s always worth following your new contacts on social media through both your business accounts and your personalLinkedIn profile.
You never know, someone you met six months ago who had no interest in hosted desktops may have expanded their business and now needs a fast, secure and reliable cloud system to take things to the next level. Providing you stay in contact with them from time to time, any potential business will be run past you. It’s win-win all round!
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