B2B and B2C networking are two very different things. What works for one may not work for another. The prime time to network for B2B is at events, conferences and workshops, and they should regularly be frequented to make a strong network of like-minded entrepreneurs.
At events, you can showcase your skills and talents directly to prospective businesses. Events are good for everyone, and the popularity of them can make the networking world intimidating. Here are a few things to remember when considering rubbing elbows with B2B event veterans.
Prepare Before the Event
Before you even show up, know who you want to speak to and what you want to say. Find out who will be at your event and make a list of businesses you believe could benefit from your product and services. If the event has an app, then finding attendees will be simple. If not, check on LinkedIn and other social media sites.
Try to keep the list to about 10 people, so you have time to converse with both old faces and new. Also, research the businesses to make sure your pitch is personalized to their needs. You don’t have to make up a full business proposal, but showing your interest in their company can go a long way.
Create Normal Conversations
Don’t let your first impression be the same pitch you’ve made to every other company beforehand. You’re in a professional environment, not a robotic one. Make the conversation a normal, casual affair. Ask questions, be engaged and don’t make the subject all about yourself. Make plans with other people, provide recommendations and do favors without expecting anything in return. You’re there to build relationships first and foremost.
Barging into conversations or taking up a lot of person’s time are frowned upon, just like in the real world. The biggest error a lot of people commit is lying. Looking good at the moment is not worth getting blacklisted down the road. Don’t take credit for things you didn’t do or talk about a subject you know nothing about as if you were an expert. Be honest at these events, and you’ll be rewarded.
Don’t Be Quick to Judge
First impressions are a huge deal in conversations, and you should always strive to put your best foot forward. However, some people don’t have the same luck. If the business looks perfect, but the person doesn’t, approach them anyway.
Allowing yourself to be deceived by a negative first impression could make you miss out on a great opportunity. Make sure to give people the benefit of the doubt and keep an open mind. Just because someone’s an introvert doesn’t mean they’ll make a negative impact on your network. Research who the person is, what they do and ask questions to understand them. Being fooled by a first impression can only hurt you in this situation.
The Value of a Card
A business card is invaluable at B2B conventions. Though some cards get a cursory glance and end up at the bottom of a desk drawer, this doesn’t have to be the case. First, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of cards with a lot of contact information. Social media, email and phone numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. Second, treat other cards the way you want yours treated. Ask questions, give compliments and don’t forget they exist.
In the world of technology, the age of business cards is beginning to die out. Keep your eyes open for innovative ways to connect. Use the LinkedIn app or digital cards to send messages on the spot. Most importantly, use the contact information and follow up with everyone you spoke to after the convention’s done. Don’t be a stalker, and don’t be a ghost. Just be yourself and remember to make contact.
With the internet allowing us to reach across continents instantly, the B2B convention never has to end. Use your LinkedIn profile like any other social media site and network online with other businesses that share your goals. Also, be sure to take advantage of Twitter, Facebook and other sites the businesses may have a place on.
LinkedIn is not the only networking site out there. The large and popular site might be too broad for your interests despite being valuable. Make sure to look into other sites, like EFactor, and create new network rings for your business. An online presence is essential and only grows to become the norm every day. Not having your business online at all could come back to bite you.
Networking in groups is rising in popularity. A network group creates separate chapters worldwide. Unfortunately, the only way to enter a group is to be referred by someone on the inside. While sounding difficult or potentially impossible, there are many networking groups out there always looking for new members. Networking in itself could get you into a group in no time.
The benefit of joining a group is always having a broad and diverse network at your fingertips. Connecting to businesses matching what you’re looking for is much easier once the prospective list is narrowed down. People in your group are also able to help you find what you’re looking for if they don’t already have the skillset or opportunity available.
Make a Lasting Impression
The most important takeaway for these events is to remain calm and be authentic. Go in excited to meet new people with a loose strategy already in your mind. Networking may mean the difference between sinking and swimming. All you have to do is treat the convention like any other professional event and enjoy yourself.