Set yourself apart during business networking events
Picture this, a typical opening dialogue at a networking event:
“How’s it going?”
“Fine. And you?”
Then what? The conversation may improve, but it also may not. The problem, according to Steve Van Lieshout, PE, is that there’s nothing unique about the opening. After the short, customary exchange, the dialogue may die. To keep it going, you need to take a different approach; to “break the script,” as Steve calls it.
Co-owner of K & S Technologies in Milwaukee, Steve travels extensively for business and networks frequently. He shared his business networking tips during a networking event this morning.
In a nutshell, Steve says, make yourself as unique as possible. Don’t be a “commodity.” When asked how he’s doing, Steve, a cancer survivor, responds with, “It’s a great day to be alive!” That comment causes people to pause. The result is often a smile but more importantly, a more interesting conversation.
Show genuine interest in the other person, and get to know them better. Ask atypical questions, like “What do you do for fun?” and “What keeps you awake at night?”
Keep your comments as brief as possible. Instead, get them talking about their hobbies, interests, their kids’ sports; whatever you pick up on initially. People like talking about themselves and will talk with enthusiasm. In doing so you’ll be remembered for not being the typical networking person, Steve says.
Ask about or comment on the person’s interest. If possible, try to participate. Let’s say the person likes to sail. Even if you haven’t hit the water before, show up at the yacht club. That individual will be impressed with you enthusiasm, and will take you under his wing. The personal relationship you develop could blossom into a professional relationship, as well.
“Business people like to do business with others who have a similar interest,” Steve says.
Additional advice Steve offered:
– Meet in target-rich environments. Most business networking events are attended by other salespeople. Those are OK on one level. But get to events where your prospects will be found.
– Send hand-written cards to your new contacts. The “old school” method is coming back. We are overwhelmed with emails and text messages. We delete or ignore most. A hand-written card and envelope stand out today.
– “It’s what you do outside the room that’s networking,” Steve says. Don’t merely file away those business cards and comments you heard. Try to follow through. Think of good leads you can provide, for sales or job opportunities.
So, attend those business networking events, but “break the script!”
For related reading, see “Use networking business opportunities to build your business” and “2 more tips for maximizing your business networking opportunity.”
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