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No matter what type of business you run, you need to network in order to build your business. Effective networking involves a lot more than simply handing out business cards. Here are a few tips to help your business development meetings produce the business relationships that you want:
Try to get a copy of the attendee list prior to the event. Cross check the list against your contacts and targets to identify individuals. Aim to meet each one and to get a follow up meeting in the diary.
Prepare an agenda. You’ll want to find out what their goals are for their business, what special skills they have, and what they’re especially proud of (both business-wise and personally). What organisations do they belong to that may be a good fit for your business networking?
If your contact is unlikely to turn into a prospect, mark them off your list of potential business development leads (but keep them as a business contact). As you go through this process, you’ll find your goals and interests match better with some people than others. This means that your meetings are producing the results you’re looking for. For those that have similar goals and interests, you should schedule times in the future to continue to build on what you’ve learned. For those that may not closely match your goals, stay in touch more generally through email marketing, etc.
There is no bigger failing for your networking activities than to let those that you’ve met fall by the wayside. Never forget that while they may not be an ideal match for you now, their businesses and lives will have changes that you may be able to complement. They’ll also meet others that may be a better fit for you and will remember you when someone looks for your services and products.