It’s no secret that times are tough for firms in the IT sales space and well, just about every other vertical that you can name these days. A few bold companies are responding to the economic downturn and the resulting ripples of layoffs, dashed deals, and reduced profits by diversifying and seeking out new schemes and revenue streams. However, the vast majority of the firms impacted by the crisis appear to be hunkering down for the duration and returning to a focus on their core competencies.
In the instant-gratification era of LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, the potential business value of good, old-fashioned networking can tend to be overlooked. But when you get right down to it, there’s no better way to breathe new life into your business than forging new real-world connections and working to renew existing contacts.
Could you use a brief refresher course in the basics of real-world networking? Use these easy networking techniques to create and sustain the kind of solid business relationships that can help see your firm through the current economic storm.
- Make a positive first impression. This is one old adage that still holds true. When it comes to forging new connections in the business world, it pays to have your introductory spiel down pat. Offer a friendly smile, a firm handshake, and an abbreviated version of your elevator pitch. Aim for genuine warmth rather than an overly polished approach that might come off as phony.
- Keep your ears open. Sometimes, when you first encounter a new business contact, your impulse may be to convey as much information as possible, get your point across, and fill in potentially awkward gaps in the conversation. However, communication experts remind us to listen as much as or even more than we speak when meeting new people. This serves to establish a sense of connection and will help you uncover details, similarities, and shared goals that could advance your business objectives.
- Develop a repertoire of rapport-building strategies. Even if you’re a seasoned sales professional who practically shakes hands for a living, meeting new people can still be nerve-wracking. When you’re forging new connections, it helps to have a few standby methods hidden up your sleeve to help break the ice. Friendly, open-ended questions and comments about the day’s headlines, your target’s job and background, or the food, setting, or speakers at the event are all usually foolproof methods of getting the conversational ball rolling.
- Suggest the next step. Once you’ve made a connection and you ascertain that your conversation seems to be leading up to something, it may be appropriate to seal the deal with a call to action. Depending on the context, this could entail anything from arranging a specific meeting time to offering up a few general ideas for possible future projects or partnerships. Be sure to try to read the situation carefully and assess your target’s level of genuine interest before choosing your strategy.
- Don’t falter on the follow-up. Whether your initial conversation ended in the traditional exchange of business cards or a more specific future plan for collaboration, don’t make the mistake of failing to follow through. If you promised to initiate the post-event conversation, be sure to hold up your end of the bargain. If you swapped contact information but didn’t establish a clear timeline for following up, refresh your target’s memory with a friendly note conveyed via email, postal mail, or voicemail.
Do you plan to step up your networking activities in the year ahead? What’s your favorite tip for connecting meaningfully with new contacts? Let us know what you think in the comments.