Tips for networking success

Anna’s Gourmet Goodies exhibited for the second year at The Raleigh Chamber’s annual Business Showcase, held in the RBC Center this past Tuesday. More than 200 companies were on hand to display their wares, sample their goods (like our incredible gourmet chocolate chip cookies) and practice their elevator speeches to anyone who paused long enough at the table. We had our fair share of traffic, handing out cookies and making people happy. What a great job!

Networking with others to build your business is the name of the game at these events. As a vendor behind the table, my job was to sample our products, answer questions about the company, and start to build relationships with potential customers. And while I was in ‘sales mode’ for part of the show, I still prefer to approach these types of events from a networking perspective.

So how can you enjoy a networking event and increase your odds of success in attracting people who want to do business with you? Here are some quick tips:

  • Change your perspective. If you walk into an event with a mindset that you simply must get ‘x’ number of leads, to make ‘x’ calls so you can close ‘x’ sales this month, you are set on a path to failure. Instead, imagine that your job is to meet ‘x’ number of people with whom you can share a connection that extends your network beyond simply making a sale. Long term success in business comes from building a broad base of connections from many walks of life.
  • Look for common ground. As human beings, we all like to feel as though we have some common ground with friends and business associates. Having common ground is the first step in establishing a business relationship.
  • Share information. Successful networking requires that you be willing to share information, even if it has nothing to do with your business. When you help someone solve a problem, you’ve made a connection, a deposit in your network bank account. To prevent a ‘Sub-Prime’ like crisis in your contact list, you should build up your bank account before you make too many withdrawals.

Here are some additional resources you might want to check out:

Love is the Killer App by Tim Sanders. I had read excerpts from this book years ago and finally picked up a copy last year. It’s an easy read and really helps you understand the importance of your contact list

“Networking in the South” Local Chamber people surely have met Gary Davis at some event. If you have not, well, then you just have not been to many events at the Raleigh Chamber. Gary’s book is filled with tips and ideas for networking in our part of the country.

My results from the show:

  • I met a nice gentleman who shared his source for custom printed non-woven bags. We’ve been thinking of adding them to our packaging.
  • I found a source for a moving van to help with a charity that I support called PLM – they help put homeless families back together here in Raleigh.
  • I met a young man whose brother helped me cater a dinner for children visiting from Belarus as a part of the Children of Chernobyl and ABRO programs this summer.
  • I met a wonderful woman who is helping support women and the families who are affected by breast cancer and found an opportunity to help with their fund raising efforts.
  • I sent a couple of nurses from UNC Healthcare home with a box of cookies to make their office staff very happy in the morning.

And of course, I picked up a few business cards, had the opportunity to meet some of my current customers and hopefully met some future ones as well. Was this a successful networking event for me, did I add to my contact bank account, sow some seeds for future business, have some fun and make people happy? Absolutely.

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