What’s the first thing that comes into your mind when you think about networking? Is it how many leads you can get or how many new contacts you can make? Well, these should certainly be part of your plan, but it’s also important to consider what you can give, and not just what you can take. This makes networking far more successful, and here’s how you can master the secrets of business networking and start doing it well.

Ditch the pitch

A networking event is the perfect opportunity to bring new leads into your funnel and get to know the needs of a new or wider business community. Try not to get too hooked on turning a single networking session into an immediate sale. Start by asking simple social questions rather than just waiting for your chance to speak about what you need. Just because you’re there to do business, doesn’t mean you can’t break the ice by chatting about something else first. People are far more inclined to do business with someone they know – so maximise the opportunity to get to know them. You’ll also find that it’s easier to get open and honest information about someone’s business needs once you’re both warmed up a bit. Remember everyone else will be there with their 60 second pitches and will be waiting with baited breath to get them out! Be patient and talk about your business only when the time is right. When it’s your turn, you’ll know more about your audience and you can tailor your pitch specifically for them.

Get to know the room

Have you ever tested yourself to only give your business card when someone actually asks for it? It’s a great technique that forces you to make sure you’re qualifying people before you start sharing. Of course you want to make contact and ensure people can follow up easily with you afterwards, but what a great way to elevate your status in the room by being selective about who you’re connecting with at a higher level. I recall a recent networking event on zoom, it was a weekly, regional event and I recognised some faces from other bordering events. There was one business owner in particular who I recognised, but for all the wrong reasons. He just joined the webinar, put his digital business card in the chat box and left. Like he was placing an advert! He was missing the point completely about building relationships, and sadly he probably did worse than not attending at all.

Cast your net far, but not wide

Here’s an example of what I mean by that. Let’s say you’re a specialist mortgage advisor, you could offer your services to anyone looking to finance a property which is probably everyone in the room at some point! By using the networking event to ask for a particular group of people you’re making potential clients feel special and feel like they’re lucky to find you. Perhaps in this example you might say that today you’re specifically looking for ‘Limited Company Directors wanting to refinance their homes within the next 12 months’. Now, this could still be most people in the room, but all of a sudden they think you’re an expert providing specialist services to people exactly like them. So that’s the part about not casting too wide, but how about still casting it far afield? This is relevant to all networking, if you’re memorable your not just networking with the people there on the day, you’re also reaching friends and partners and family members of them all too. Who knows who’s brother is looking to move house next year!

Go for it!

Now that you know the secrets, my final piece of advice is ‘go for it!’. Many people are not ‘natural networkers’, so if you are feeling a bit nervous about walking into a room full of strangers, rest assured that you are not the only person feeling that way! Be brave and strike up a conversation – I bet the person you speak to will be grateful you did!