For entrepreneurs, networking events are great places to meet new people that can help you build your business.
Believe it or not, and you can actually have fun at the same time. The key is to prepare for the event, and learn some networking skills that can help you meet the right customers.
Here are 5 steps to gaining new clients.
1. Prepare for the event by finding out who will be there, creating a short introduction, and having your business cards handy.
2. Have the right psychology. Use the event to make new contacts and build relationships. Don't think about trying to sell your product or service on the spot. People will get turned off. Your goal should be to meet several new people, and then make plans to meet afterwards with people you want to do business with.
3. Follow up after the event. Send a card, letter, or e-mail. Call to arrange a meeting, or invite the person for coffee or lunch. Without follow-up, nothing happens.
4. Do what you said you would do. If you said you would send some information, or get a referral for someone, be sure to follow through. Show that you are trustworthy and reliable.
5. Think about networking as a way to build long term relationships with clients who can give you continued business, rather than making a quick sale. Remember that everyone you meet has a whole sphere of contacts. The person you meet may not need your products or services, but he or she may know someone who you can call. Try asking: Who do you know who is (add your own information -looking for a new house, just started a new business, has a child in daycare)?
Remember that people want to do business with people they know, like and trust. A business event is the perfect place for entrepreneurs to get to know someone without trying to make a sale. Once you've started a relationship, you have your foot in the door to sell your product or service, or get a lead or referral. Who knows, you many even have a client or friend for life!
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From Lynda Goldman, author of How to Make a Million Dollar First Impression