Networking does not start with you telling someone about your business. It starts with learning about theirs. If you want to capture someone’s interest, let them talk about themselves or their business. That is the first surefire way to get them to listen to you about yours when the time comes. Visitations allow for you to experience their place of work, and in turn yours, but it is important to get as much as you can during your visit.
Any time you visit another business, do these things to maximize the long-term value of the relationship.
First, if this meeting wasn’t for the sole purpose of learning about their company, then you are probably on the wrong foot to start, but don’t walk away from the opportunity. We would suggest that you schedule the relationship building meeting separately, but that is not always possible. Now that you are there, once you have the “other” business out of the way, tell them that you would love to learn about their business and how it works. Let them know you have an extra 15 minutes if they can take the time.
Second, now that you are in learning mode, remember that this is about their business and not yours, don’t offer comparisons to your business. Its okay to offer comparison to other people’s businesses that you have met, this helps establish that you will remember the things they tell you about theirs and piques their interest even more. Ask open ended questions that will give you information that you can store away to use when recommending them.
Finally, tell them you would love them to visit you sometime and help them learn about your business also.
Scheduled visitations are a must for your networking group.
So far, we have talked about the generic form of networking where you are visiting all of the businesses that you interact with. If visitations are important for those networking relationships, then they are even more important for the members of your networking group who you interact with every week. No, listening to their elevator pitch at the meeting isn’t enough. You need get to know these people on an intimate basis, as you are representing to many of your contacts that you trust them enough to recommend their business regularly. This is part of the 7 networking habits you should be incorporating in your daily routine. Going beyond your vendor relationship with business visitations will be successful for your business but will also allow you to see how they handle customers that aren’t as “easy” as your are.