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As a consultant I do a lot of business networking events and I have seen people make some of the worst mistakes. First impressions are very important and if you don’t make a good one and a memorable one then you will have to spend a lot of future time trying to over come the bad first impression.
How to make a good first impression?
1. Be prepared – Know your elevator speech by heart. Don’t wing it. If you are like most people you do or sell way more then you can say in the first 30 seconds but don’t overwhelm people with too much information.
2. Honor the event – Be mindful of who is giving the event and why you are there. If you are in a room full of CPA’s, don’t talk badly about CPA’s or why you don’t like yours. In addition and this happened to me the other day. If you are at a non-business function don’t take the opportunity to plug your business without getting permission from the organizer. It will make you look bad.
3. Don’t be a card collector – Most people know people like these. They run up to you at an event and only have one thought in mind, GET YOUR CARD. These people have no real interest in getting to know you and will people forget you right away but they have your card.
The Follow up!
So now you have done your networking but what to do next? Follow up. I cannot tell you how many times people have told me they want to get together and explore how we can work together, only to have them never follow up.
The first thing you should do when you can is to look at all the business cards you have and make sure you know why you are following up with people. After that if you are using a Customer Relationship Management tool Great! If not, GET ONE! I always suggest hubspot.com Its a great tool, its easy to use, and its free!
When you contact people be sincere. It’s odd that I have to mention that but most people are always thinking about the sale. You should be thinking about the relationship. I always tell people business owners will want to help other business owners so they will have 2 choices. The first is that they can buy something from you. Which is fine, money is money right? But the second choice is build the relationship so someone will feel as though they can trust you enough to open their rolodex (or contacts in today’s world) and share all their contacts with you.
The other day I was at a networking event and I keep running into this same financial planner. Since we are traveling in the same circles I figured we would make good referral partners. I asked to meet with her I believed we could refer each other. We setup a time and place to meet (her office) and as soon as I sat down she thought I was there to sign up. Obviously I was either bad at explaining what i was looking to do or she didn’t hear me, but I network a lot and I meet tons of financial planners looking for C level people. I can’t possibly be a client for everyone.
So if you are interested in building your business through word of mouth remember to be sincere always, be specific in what you are looking for, and look for referral partners not sales.