Networking isn’t just about standing up once a week and giving your 60 second blurb. Let’s face it, if it’s a regular group, they’ve heard it all before anyway. That’s not necessarily a bad thing just to be able to reiterate what it is you do, and to be honest some people just switch off, so it’s good to have the chance to go again in case they are listening at least once!
But networking can become part of life without you even realising, and without you forcibly selling yourself or your business. How about walking the dog? You chat to other walkers, “I’m walking at this time, because I’m freelance” or “I work shifts” etc. could soon lead to a conversation about your business without pushing or selling it too hard.
At social events, make an effort to chat to people you don’t know, be interested in them, their families, their lives. Most people like to talk about themselves. Then they will reciprocate, and if they need an accountant, a lawyer, business support, they may remember your friendly chat and you could be their first port of call.
I was at a wedding recently and started chatting to one of the other guests who turned out to be the owner of an HR company. We chatted about the ups and downs of owning your own business, and she told me that one of the downs for her was finding someone reliable and efficient to take minutes at disciplinary meetings, and who would have a concise and relevant working document available with a very short turn-around time.
For me, this was a very fortuitous conversation, because this is what I do, and because we had been chatting for some time about unrelated matters, I felt comfortable to give her my business card, and a few weeks later when I had almost forgotten the encounter, I had a call from her asking if I could take the minutes for a series of meetings that she had set up.
Of course, I was delighted and it hadn’t taken the hard-sell to get the work, just a friendly conversation at a social event. Sometimes that’s all it takes. So, remember, be friendly and interested, the next person you chat to could put business your way, but even if they don’t, you have made a connection with another human being, and surely that can’t be a bad thing.