B2B – Beyond Business Cards to Actual Business

The number one reason many people don’t convert business cards into business is – they never follow up!

Effective systems make or break good networkers. Master networking goes way beyond just giving out business cards. Granted this is one of the first steps in actually making new contacts – but returning to your office with 15 business cards after attending a Chamber of Commerce meeting, is totally useless unless you do something with them.

Consider the cost, door to door, for you to attend this event. Calculate the number of hours from when you left your office or home to the actual time you returned. Yes, you may have only been at the function for two hours but door to door may in fact be closer to four or five hours. Now, consider your charge out rate for five hours – almost a full day. Include the cost of your ticket and any parking charges and you have now come up with the actual cost for attending that event.

Conservatively lets say that your charge out rate is $100 per hour, the parking another $25 and the cost to attend say $75. The total is now $600. Then if we allow another hour for follow up after the event, (be it sending information or just recording the contacts), we are now looking at an investment of $700. And if your charge out is more than $100 per hour – well you do the maths. For the self employed person this equates to a considerable cost. For the employed, it’s another cost to be absorbed by your employer. No wonder they expect results!

So, it’s important we get more value out of attending networking events. Here are some tips to help you do that:

1. Prepare before the event.
What outcomes are you wanting ? Who would you like to meet? If you meet the ideal prospect, have you remembered your business cards. At least one third of people attending networking events for the sole purpose of doing business – forget to bring their business cards!

2. Change your focus
Rather than thinking you stop work and then go to the networking event – consider the networking event is in fact an extension of your workday – you are just changing locations. Conversely, if you were attending a breakfast function, you in fact started work at 7 a.m. today. With a work focus at this event, your priorities will be quite different. Basically you are building trust through communication. If you don’t talk to people, you cannot build trust and rapport with them.

3. Become a connector
At networking functions – practice linking people together. Asking questions like, “What were you hoping to achieve from tonight’s function?” or “Did you have a specific objective for attending tonight?”
Get people talking about why they are there and then, if possible, connect them with the people they are looking for or if that is not possible, at least someone who may know someone. This is a really valuable skill to master and in this information age when information is currency, your role as a connector becomes invaluable – during and post any event.

4. Don’t over-commit.
If you commit to forward information post event, don’t over-commit. Be honest, if you have a full schedule that week, indicate that it may be 4-5 days before you can forward the information and check if that is okay. Most people are quite okay with this. It’s when you say you will do something and don’t do it that you can lose credibility.

5. Develop a post event system
This may include having a specific business cards holder for that network, where you place all the cards from the people you meet at this event. Prior to putting them in the folder, make a note on the back of the card with the date and place you met the person and something you remember about them – ideally something they are interested in outside of work. Prior to going to the next event at that network, you browse through the cards to remind yourself who you met.

You may also enter the contact details from the card of key prospects in your electronic database and make a note to reconnect with them in 30 to 45 days time. Remember you are building trust and earning the right to gain business, as well as aiming to be remembered positively – without being pushy.

6. Pass it on
One of the easy ways of making contact with people post event, is to send them a copy of an invitation to another event they may be interested in attending. An email or fax: “Hi Joe, enjoyed our conversation at the Chamber of Commerce, here is the invitation I mentioned. Hope to connect with you again.” Another may be sending an article that is relevant to the person’s business or profession. You may in fact collect a file full of these and forward them on as required. For your reference, www.corporatetrends.com.au has a large selection of appropriate articles on a variety of business subjects.

7. Send an electronic postcard. 
Visit www.networkingtowin.com.au and click on send a postcard. You will find a variety of designs that are different, easy to send and download quickly. The key point is that you follow up – otherwise that $700 investment of time, money and effort has gone down the drain.

If you see attending networking events as a three part process, preparation before you go, connecting with people at the function and most importantly follow up after the event, you will really start to see reward for your effort. Always remember small but significant help can be extremely powerful and memorable. 
Happy networking