How to get more business from your networking.

by Paul Allen on April 12, 2013

business networking barometer

Smart business people know it pays to network!

Whether that means attending a regular networking group like BNI or one of the many excellent local business exhibitions held every year, there are some key skills that will make the most of your efforts.

For visitors

1) Know what you want to achieve from the day. With so many stands and seminars, there is only so much you can do. If your aim is to meet new people, then prioritise your time around visiting stands rather than attending seminars.

2) Consider other people. If your goal is to connect with exhibitors to do business with them, remember they will be looking to sell their services too! Try not to monopolise their time, especially when other prospects are around. Visiting off peak means you are more likely to get more attention and talk to a decision maker.

3) Keep it brief! On introduction, reassure the person you will not take up much of their time. Explain why you wish to talk to them and ask for a business card and follow up afterwards.

4) Be sociable! Try not to have lunch, or refreshments alone. Try to join a table with a spare space.

5) Check the exhibitors list and poll your existing contacts in advance to discover who is attending. No-one wants to stay on their feet all day, everyone needs a break, so pre-arrange one 2 ones with your contacts over coffee or lunch.

For exhibitors

1) Give people some space. Don’t be tempted to stand right by the entrance handing out leaflets. Walk around the hall distributing your marketing material as you go. Remember, the person who gets the most visitors to their stand isn’t necessarily the winner.

2) Make sure that your stand is eye catching and clearly demonstrates your offer. Your team should be approachable and friendly, ready to attend to anyone. Hunting down passers-by, pursuing them around the exhibition hall, will not win you friends!

3) Don’t create barriers. Make yourself approachable. Don’t be tempted to sit behind a large table covered in literature with your arms folded!

4) Visitors come first. Whilst it is business as usual, try to put the phone on silent whilst attending your stand. Everyone on the stand should be focused on being approachable to potential customers, any other activity should always take place away from your stand.

5) Keep it personal! Giveaways and prize draws encourage people to part with their business cards, but don’t just tip all of the cards into a box and add them to your database. Prioritise cards based on the conversations you had with the individuals concerned. Keep a record of each conversation you have with visitors, together with a note on follow up. Ideally, the person who had the conversation should also manage the follow up, even if it’s just an email to pass them onto someone else. Remember, most of the mass emails you send will be deleted without being read.

Smart business people invest significant time and money in making good business contacts.

By following the top 5 networking tips for visitors and exhibitors, you can significantly improve your chances of getting a return on that investment.

Anyone have any networking tips they’d like to add to the list?

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