The holidays are here – and with them, come a host of opportunities for networking. A recent article in Entrepreneur points out that the season is filled with events ideal for networking and relationship building. In addition to traditional gatherings like company parties, Chamber of Commerce events, business contact referral groups and online sites, holiday events can also connect you with people outside your regular business circle – and put you in touch with those you already know in a casual, friendly way.
And whether you’re an entrepreneur who wants to grow your business or an employee looking to advance your position in a company, this is an ideal time to network. The following tips will help you network more effectively during the holiday season.
Tip #1: Attend as many holiday events as possible. Though this may seem an obvious, it’s easy to skip going to seasonal events due to office or home responsibilities. However, if you want to grow your business or elevate your career, this is the best time to get away from your desk. Toasting a potential customer over a holiday dinner or nibbling on appetizers at a “meet-and-greet” is an excellent way to “break the ice” and open conversations.
Tip #2: Think about giving. During the holidays, we give thanks for our families, loved ones and country. Gifts are exchanged. Tables are stacked with seasonal food. It’s a bountiful time filled with generosity. Why not take that same spirit and apply it to networking? Rather than think about what you can get from networking, think about what you can give to it. It’s that attitude shift of ‘how can I help?’ instead of ‘what can this person do for me?’
Tip #3: Do your research. Instead of planning to just reach a certain number of people at an event, qualify your prospects ahead of time. Think about who will be in attendance – and, of these, who is your ideal client. Chances are, when you are prepared to meet these people, you will. So be ready!
Tip #4: Set a goal. Come prepared to share what you can give to prospects’ businesses or to elevate your company position. Have an “elevator pitch” ready which in a few sentences showcases what you do. If possible, plan to mention someone you work with in your prospect’s line of work. Or be ready to chat about someone this person knows to establish credibility. Be prepared to share at least two specific offers with potential customers.
Tip #5: Know your end result. Decide ahead of time what you want from your networking. If you want immediate business, ask for a meeting or advice. The point here is to keep the conversation going. Likewise, if you want to establish a relationship, this is a perfect time of year to keep the contact flowing. Invite your prospect to an event, mail a holiday card or send an e-card. The opportunities for connecting again are numerous.
Tip #6: Build relationships. This time of year people are already thinking about relationships with others. So take advantage of that festive mind-set! Get out there and start those important conversations. Remember, your primary goal is to build your business or enhance your career. And, while doing this may seem shamelessly self-serving during this season of thanks and holiday giving, the truth is you have something others need. It’s not self-aggrandizement to share what you have to give. Others will thank you for your gift!