One of the major keys to winning at networking is to change your mindset. Instead of leaving all of the heavy lifting until after the event, do it up front. Turn the whole process on its head! Start to prepare to have meaningful conversations by simply knowing the value your business can add to the right connection.

Have you ever come home from a networking event with a pile of business cards and the best intentions, but fail to follow up with anyone? So often, networking is left to chance. People attend events hoping to meet contacts that will one day turn either directly or indirectly into clients. When you know who you expect to see, the value you can add to that potential client, and how to have the right conversations, you can eliminate both the stress of these events and the failure of most people to follow-up.

Lead with Value:

Could you, if asked, quickly summarize what your company does best? Do you know the value of what you and your business offer? Whether you can do this or not right now, you will need to be able to articulate it before your next networking opportunity. Take stock of your strengths as well as those of your company. If you can’t articulate your value, how will you share it?

Show your Value:

The value your business adds to another business or non-profit is the core of what you do best. Are you a website designer? One area of value you can add to an already existing company is to be more thorough than your competitors in understanding your clients.

Ask the potential contact if he/she is satisfied with their current website. You can ask if there is any upgrade to the site she/he has been putting on hold. Take the initiative to review the contact’s website after the networking event, and ask the business owner if they would like your thoughts on their site after your review.

Of course, be careful to acknowledge what is already working well and what you like that is already up and running on their site. Just because someone already has a partner (ex. another website designer) doesn’t mean they are not willing to hear about what you can do for them.

Taking the time to look at yourself and your company to determine those traits that set you above the competition before going to your next networking event will eliminate the stress of the unknown.

Beware the Value Vacuum:

If you do not take the time to figure out what value you offer professionally and personally before you attend events, it will come through in your conversations. You will lack the confidence and clear communication needed to gain new connections in such short periods of time.

When determining the value you add, take note of what separates you from the competition. If you are a website designer, have you been in business for a number of years? Do you provide exceptional customer service beyond customers’ expectations? Do you offer more value for the same price as other designers? How so? These distinguishing factors are called your company’s “value add”. It is crucial to know what you can offer anyone willing to hire you. If you have a great network of referrals, this too can be something another owner/manager would want to know.

Make a Value Exchange:

The goal of networking is to expand your influence. The value you provide is the foundation of that influence. Don’t go to networking events to close deals. Do go to networking events to make mutually beneficial connections. Keep in mind that there may be people going there to meet someone just like you! If the timing is right, do not be afraid to take the initiative to set up an appointment after the event.

Roam Stress-Free:

Taking the time to look at yourself and your company to determine those traits that set you above the competition before going to your next networking event will eliminate the stress of the unknown.

You may not know exactly who you will run into, but you will be prepared to have meaningful conversations with the people you do meet. Being free to roam around the room, devoid of pressure, ready to listen, and ready to talk about you have to offer if asked, will make networking an enjoyable experience again.

Your excitement for what you do will return when you don’t feel forced to make sales while networking. Your bottom line will bolster as your passion comes through – all if you take the time to prepare.

Take Natural Next Steps:

After the event, follow-up will be easier because you’ve had the opportunity to learn about other peoples’ businesses and they have had a chance to hear about yours. You will feel good about the connections you made – be it two or ten!

The next stage to your relationship towards making a sale will be natural and you will simply be following up on what you heard the potential client say and the things you learned about his or her business.

You have value – know it, live it, love it!

Would you find more resources helpful when planning your networking events? Download a FREE Networking Event Action Plan.