Mingling well for your business, also known as Networking, can be hard. Yet for many embroidery and apparel decoration business owners, networking is one of the most effective ways to bring in business. Mingling successfully helps you to develop relationships which can open the to door to new orders from existing customers and open the door for new customers. Here are 8 steps to help you mingle and network effectively so that you make the most of every opportunity when you are meeting people.
- Have a purpose. On the surface, Chamber gatherings and other business and social networking events in your community seem to just be social and fun events. Walk into the mixer with a specific goal in mind. Who would you like to meet? What do you want to accomplish? Are you looking for a local salesperson to hire? Based on the nature of the gathering, who will be there, and why the gathering is happening, have a specific outcome in mind.
- Get organized. After the event, you are likely to have a pile of business cards and a host of impressions. Take the time to organize these contacts and add any notes about the people you met into your contacts information. Ideally, you will have a searchable system on a computer, even a simple database, where you enter their name, company, email, phone and complete mailing address. If you discovered that you have a mutual hobby, add that to their information. If you heard that they are celebrating a family wedding soon, include that note. Memory is a fickle thing. Taking the time to get your thoughts and impressions down in writing or on the computer immediately after the event will help you solidify these new contacts in your memory and help you begin to build relationships with the people you met.
- Listen more, talk less. Many of us are not comfortable in these kinds of social settings. Not to worry – ask the person you are meeting about what they do, where they are from or even their favorite kind of music or movies! By showing genuine interest in the other person, you let them get the conversation going and then you can ease into it when appropriate. People generally like people that listen well, which is another benefit to asking a leading question.
- Stay on point. When the other person asks you what you do in return, know how you want to answer. Practice saying something that is unique, memorable yet brief. I often went with something like this, “I help business owners make a great first impression.” That usually lead the other person to ask what I meant, and then I would explain, “We create branded shirts, hats and jackets for many of the businesses and organizations here in town, like what I am wearing.” In a perfect world, one of my customers would be in the room wearing one of our products, and I would reference them instead of myself.
- Keep moving. Most of the people at these sorts of events are there to make new contacts, as meet many new people as possible. Be engaged with whomever you meet and remember that you are not there to sell. Meet, engage and then mingle on to the next person or group.
- Ask leading questions. Skip the questions that can be answered with a Yes or No. Instead of asking them, “Do you like being an insurance agent?” ask them what they like best about being an agent, for example. They may say they like nothing best, and let you know they are thinking about a career change.
- Be friendly. Few people are naturally comfortable walking up to a group of strangers and starting a conversation. Include anyone that approaches your conversation quickly even by just looking at them or speaking to them and the others when you answer a question. Then invite them to introduce themselves, and presto, they are now part of the conversation.
- Share your resources. If you know a great car mechanic, and someone mentions they are looking for one, give them the name of your person. If someone is having an issue that you have had and resolved, suggest how you handled it if it would apply in their situation. Being someone that helps out is always a great way to begin a relationship with a new contact.
Networking, mingling successfully is about meeting new people and making small talk which puts people at ease so that you can find out a little bit about them. It is not the time or place to try and make a sale. If you feel that it is appropriate, let the other person know that you have a suggestion for them and that you would like to follow up with them at a time that works for them.
Bonus Tip: Actually follow up! I cannot stress enough how important it is to follow through and reach out to the people you meet in the next few days. Send them an email, make a phone call. Far to few people follow up, and miss out on opportunity after opportunity because they leave the gathering and never review the contacts they made or reach out to them ever again.
I would love to hear how you network, and what has worked for you! Post your comment below.