The latest in our series of guest blogs comes from Eilidh Milnes, a motivational speaker for confidence known as ‘Captain Positive!’ She explains how businesses small and large can gain more from networking.
Every business is in sales and part of that is networking with confidence. Networking is a skill, not a task. Tasks are things such as loading the washing machine, taking out the dustbin, cutting the grass. Networking is a skill and as such should be enjoyed.
Never Eat Alone…
Can teach you a lot about networking. The most important point is, it’s not about you. If you spend your time meeting people to see if there is a way you can be of help to them, you put your mind in the right order, like a menu and it becomes easier. Why? Because you may not be a great networker, but you could be a great problem solver. If you can help someone else with an issue, idea, or contact, you are working in the sweet spot of your skills. Along the way good things will happen.
Set your goals
When I attend an event, I typically have between 1-3 people I specifically want to meet. I select them in advance. I link up with them using a variety of social media platforms plus the use old school methods of making a phone call or sending a text e.g. “Hi Jonathan, really looking forward to meeting you tomorrow. Let’s make sure we connect.”
Ask good questions
“What do you do?” “Tell me about your company” and “How long have you been with your company/this industry/this association?” are all typical openers and they get typical answers… and pretty boring ones. Try a few alternative questions instead e.g.
- “What business problem does your company solve?”
- “What is the best example you have of how you are doing that?”
- “What clever tip, or new thing, have you learned this week?”
The point is that you want to have provoking questions that initiate conversation out of the norm. These questions should give you that. Once the person has answered, you have just one more question to pose: “That’s great, is there some way I can help you?”
I watched a networking star work a room at a cocktail party the other evening. She introduced herself, fielded a question or two, ask if she could help and then she simply put her hand out to shake hands and said, “It has been so nice to spend a few minutes getting to know you, I hope you have a great week.” She smiled graciously and moved on. She took the initiative to introduce, she controlled the conversation with a few questions, and then exited. There is a courtesy to be observed at a networking event which involves not monopolising someone else’s time. This rhythm that this lady set was the right tempo to accomplish what a networking event should set out to do.
- Take your business cards,
- Be the first to put your hand out and introduce yourself, every time,
- Send a quick email to every person you have a card from within 24 hours.
- Thank them for their time and the opportunity to meet up….
- Smile in the knowledge that every business is in sales – and smiles sell!
Eilidh Milnes – pronounced “Ay-lee” – is the motivational speaker for confidence known as ‘Captain Positive!’ She is President Elect of the Professional Speaking Association UK. Eilidh is a teacher turned coach, columnist and award winning author. She has years of training and consultancy working with people from Aberdeen to Adelaide and available for speaking and consultancy world wide.