It is well know (hopefully) that attending networking events looking for a hard sale is not the correct etiquette. ​Instead we should be attending these events looking to build relationships that are sustainable and that will lead to future opportunities and partnerships. But how do we do that?

Firstly, you need to work out whether the prospect can add value to you and your business. To do this use open questions, these are a fantastic way to find out more about an individual’s business, life and behaviour from which you can decide if there is an opportunity to work together in the future. It is also great way to find out whether you ‘like’ that person enough to want to work together. Whilst you may be able to see collaborative/ referral opportunities from them for your business if, personally, you do not like them or their attitude the truth is that you will never have the strong relationship needed for business agreements.

Examples of good open questions include,

“Tell me about your business…”

“What type of businesses do you work with currently?”

“How would you describe yourself?”

All of these questions will give you some insight into the type of person you are talking to, as well as the type of business they’re part of too.

Now that you know that person better, and you have decided to pursue a business relationship with them, it is all about the follow up and remaining at the fore-front of their mind so that, should something worthwhile related to what you do pop up, your name is what comes out of their mouth rather than a competitors. With this it’s important to highlight that everyone is different. Similarly to sales, where everyone has their own buying habits, we also have our own individual communication preferences, for example connecting via open questions at an event and then ‘continuing the conversation’ and following up via email, telephone, social media streams or 1-2-1s, ultimately the key is to work out how best to communicate with that individual, and to keep the conversation going, not to an excessive degree, but often enough to keep your name fresh and at the forefront of their mind. This will strengthen the relationship and potentially your business too.

Business agreements, deals and relationships are never formed at an event from a one-off introduction to someone. Like most things they need to be nurtured and developed, as I have mentioned, there are multiple ways to do this. In my opinion face to face 1-2-1s are the best catalyst to creating these beneficial business relationships, but equally everyone is different and sometimes people may need a mixture of all formats for that solid relationship to be built.

Networking is a brilliant tool for any business when done correctly. No one likes to be sold to, but everybody loves to buy especially when we’re buying into people.