I moved to Atlanta knowing no one, and within 6 weeks I had over 500 names in my database.

Today, I’m going to show you exactly how I did that.

I want you to be able to do this yourself, so we’ll cover the 4 basic topics below, then  go through them in detail.

  1. How to approach people
  2. How to guide the conversation
  3. How to exchange business cards and get agreements to follow up
  4. How to exit the conversation (Yes, there’s a right way to do this!)

Where Do I Find Networking Events?

Before we can talk about the 4 steps to networking, we need to find the network! As a matter of fact, they’re everywhere. You can try Meetup.com, Events.com, the business journal in your community, your newspaper, or even Google it. People advertise it because they want you to find it! Do some research to find out what events are in your area, and when.

Business people are always looking to meet other business people. They have courses, they do events, and you can even find after-hour events like cocktail parties. You can easily find the type of networking event that works for you..

Step 1: How to Approach People

Now that you’ve chosen an event to go to, it’s time to network. You walk into the room, and maybe you don’t know a single person. Well, you want to look for someone standing by themselves. They’re probably thinking the same thing you are:

How am I going to approach someone?”

Chances are, if you walk up to them, they will be so glad that you did. Ask them if it’s their first time, and spark some conversation.  Or act like a host and offer to introduce them to others. This will make them feel positively toward you, give you something to do, and will help you mingle.

If all else fails, you can stand by the food and ask what people like best, or ask if they’ve tried a particular dish. It’s a good way to start a conversation casually and as you both walk away, start guiding the conversation where you want it to go.

Step 2: How to Guide the Conversation

It’s really important to listen well, and to be aware of the problems your product/service solves. This will help you determine if it’s a good fit with the people you’re talking to. You can guide the conversation by asking different questions.

It is important that you don’t do all of the talking. Let them know what you do, and then start asking about them about themselves.They will enjoy the conversation  (we all enjoy talking about ourselves), and by asking questions you’ll be able to find out if they are good prospects for you and your product/service.

Be curious! Find out all about them, and ask open-ended questions to get them to open up. Some examples are:

“Are you a member here?”

“How long have you lived in the area?”

And, my favorite, ask if they’re being affected by whatever’s going on in the economy. Back in the recession, I was asking people all the time if it affected them positively or negatively.

Step 3: How to Exchange Business Cards and Get Agreements to Follow Up

After you’ve had a conversation with the person and gotten a sense of their challenges, if they are a good prospect, you now will want to make an appointment to see them again. Remember, you are looking for people who would be good prospects, but also collaborators, or someone who can help you in some way.

If you’ve done a good job in the first 2 steps, you can simply say “I might have something that will help you with ____.” Hand them your business card, ask for theirs, flip it over and ask if they know a good time to meet again.

If they don’t have their calendar with them, make sure you find out when a good time to call them is. Ask if it’s better to call in the morning or afternoon, or what day works best for them.

Step 4: How to Exit the Conversation

Believe it or not, you need to have a strategy for this. Otherwise you’ll find yourself stuck in conversations that just go on and on. Whether it’s because they think you’re fascinating, or they just don’t want to meet other people, it’s not always easy to exit the conversation.

My go-to exit strategy:

“I’m so sorry, I’m taking up so much of your time. There’s so many great people for you to meet, so I won’t hold you up any longer. Please, go out and have a great time networking.”

Just send them on their merry way.

If you know someone that would be a good connection for them, you can also say:

“Hey, I think ____ would be a great person for you to meet. They’re right over there so let me take you over and introduce you.”

Either way, this leaves them feeling like you’ve done them a favor. They feel positively directed towards you, you’ve made a connection and started building a relationship, and then helped them even more by giving them someone else to meet.

Last But Not Least, Follow Up!

Stay true to your word. If you told them you’d call in the morning, call in the morning. Even if they don’t answer, you’ve done what you promised, which leaves a good impression. Sometimes, people may even forget about your conversation, but that’s okay! The point is, you told them you would, and you did.

Happy Networking!
Lorna Rasmussen

What Did You Think of Networking: How I Went From 0 to 500 Prospects in 6 Weeks

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