This is a continuation of “How to Prepare for Effective Networking.”
We polled some of our corporate members and MBEs on effective networking. They sent us some of the best practices, tips, and Dos and Don’ts of networking. Please remember that these are the opinions of contributors, and not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Council, and these apply to Premiere Events. For full legal disclaimer, please visit the Council's Disclaimer Page.
Best Practices: Effective Networking
When you get there:
- Be patient. (Networking and establishing business relationships takes time).
- Come in with a targeted list of who you want to make an impact with and what you will offer.
- (Remember to always) be professional, have a professional presence. First impressions are important.
- When I’m networking, I like to start out with the mindset of, “How can I help the people I meet?”
- Relax, networking events can be overwhelming at times.
- Believe that you can and will make great progress. After making all the necessary preparations, having the right mindset can lead to many great things.
How to introduce yourself:
- Keep your introduction succinct.
- Offer a handshake and introduce yourself and what organization you are with. (Remember the name. Use it three times and it's yours.)
- Smile… be welcoming.
- Don’t assume that the person that you met previously will remember your name! Unless a person is addressing you by your name when you see them again, then assume they don’t know and state it again.
During the conversation:
- Show passion for what you do.
- LISTEN closely to what’s being said.
- Listen twice as much as talk. Ask questions.
- Show excitement for what they do.
- Write down information in stenography notebook.
- Consider this first meeting as an opportunity for relationship building and for future opportunities to connect… you’re not going to get it all done with the first meeting, so don’t try. We don’t want to (and you shouldn’t want to) spend 30 minutes with any one individual at a networking event.
- Don’t be disappointed if a target corporation is not interested or doesn’t have any current opportunities. It’s better that you know now than be strung along.
- However, don’t assume that corporations do not talk to each other… we do! And often times, we can be your resource to meet other potential targets.
How to make the most out of it:
- Ask about other companies attending the event that they should meet. We can be very helpful this way and want to direct you to those that can benefit from knowing more about your company.
- Instead of trying to collect contact information, I’m actively listening to the people I meet at an event and trying to figure out how I can help them solve a problem.
- If I can’t help them directly, I connect them with someone in my network who can do that for them. I try to be a connector and give more value than I get.
- Team up with an existing customer to use as an immediate reference to your work when meeting future/potential customers. An in-person testimonial can seal next steps quickly.
- Seek to develop a relationship with the event host leadership. In the case of the Northwest Minority Supplier Development Council, a MBE should develop a solid rapport with the CEO, Staff, Board of Directors and Corporate sponsors.
How to close:
- Make the ASK and go for the appropriate close so you get a chance at the next steps.
- Exchange cards and ask if you may contact them.
- Ask for a business card and let them know you’ll be contacting them in the near term to provide an electronic capabilities statement, but also an email to better define your value proposition for that particular corporation.
- Don’t ask for a business card if you have no intention of following up. If you have provided us with your business card… we’ll remember that you didn’t follow up.
- If you make a solid corporate connection during an event and you would like to follow-up with that person, politely ask if you can schedule a meeting with them right on the spot! Recommendation – ask for a date at least 30 days out from the current date to minimize potential conflicts as many Supplier Diversity professionals typically have a busy travel schedule. Also for an initial call, I recommend you ask for a 30 minute or less conference call – not an hour.
What not to do:
- Don’t let nerves take over so you keep talking, don’t dominate the conversation.
- DO NOT take all of their time or make them feel captive. Networking is meant to mingle with many people.
- Don’t try and “sell” your company’s products and services at a networking event unless the conversation lends itself to that; on the other hand, be prepared to clearly articulate your business in a 15 second elevator pitch because invariably someone will ask you “what do you do”.
- Don’t try to land a job, your goal is to make the introduction
- Don’t distribute handouts… this is not the time or place.
- LEAVE any marketing materials at home – give and collect business cards.
For more information on effective introductory communication, read “The Dos and Don’ts of Selling to Top Procurement Executives.”
Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this blog:
- Lisa Castillo
- Pedro Castro
- Dennis Brooks
- Lana Gosnell
- James Hing
- Sharon S. Lucas
- Fernando Martinez
- Swen Nater
Alex Llorente is the Manager of Corporate Services, Marketing & Communications of Northwest Mountain MSDC and Co-Chair of the Publicity & Marketing Committee, which aims to enhance and communicate the value of the Northwest Mountain MSDC. To send comments, suggestions or more information on this topic, contact us.