Let me ask you, how many networking events have you attended in the last three months? If you cannot count them anymore, it is a really good sign. If you are an entrepreneur like me, you have to be out there looking for your next opportunity. Chances are clients are not going to come flocking to your door at the beginning, but it is you who has to attract them and bring that business.
Since I quit my corporate job in the US in April 2016, I have been attending many networking events and here are some lessons I learned in the past few months so you can really get the most out of those experiences.
Different groups have different tones basically depending on the personality of the leader and the people who attend. I discovered not every group is for me and each one serves a different purpose. Whether I can talk about lessons learned, business advice, strengths and weaknesses or doing business, I have now a group identified for specific reasons, so next time I attend one I set my mind to prepare accordingly.
Think about it. For how long do you remember a business connection you met for the first time at some event? I believe the answer is: depends on the impression that person made in you. There are people who naturally connect and others that do not, and you usually walk out of the room knowing whom you want and do not want to see again. Your expertise, the uniqueness of your product and its multiple benefits can take you very far, but remember we connect at a personal level as well, so as much as someone needs your product if that person does not have a good impression on you, there won’t probably be any sale. Personality and manners is key to create a memorable first impression, and there is no second chance to make a good first impression.
The other day after I connected with one of my recently added networking contacts, we discovered she needed my services. She was not sure I could do what she needed, and I didn’t know she needed help. I believe the ability to sell is something you master with time and patience, but it starts by identifying a need followed by offering your help an
d trusting your instinct. Make sure you say what you do wherever you go as your business depends on you speaking for it.
I realized business cards continued piling up in my bags and pockets, so I decided to arrange them in categories. I started looking at those business cards and placing them in three re-sealable bags tagged with the following categories: The first category is “We are connected!” where I included all cards that made a good impression on me and can see them as true resources and I am keeping my eyes open for potential opportunities to them as well. The second category “Potential Partner” has all the business cards of people that I believe I can partner up and work together for the same client, and the third category “I don’t remember” where I placed all the business cards whose owner or product I cannot remember. Since I have them organized now, it is really easy for me to place the next group of cards I receive.
I still go to networking events trying to find my ideal customer or another entrepreneur who is going through the same ups and downs as me. It really never ends, as it is a way of life now. Entrepreneurs have to be out there constantly searching and listening with open eyes and an open mind.
At one of these events, somebody I had just met said, “I’m sure you can find clients from any networking session, but they first have to like you”, and that’s when I reassured myself this is just a matter of time.