Spill The Tea – Why Do You Want to Meet? 4 Steps to More Effective Networking

by Kia Jarmon

Why does everyone want to meet; everyday, all day, in the middle of the day? With the pop up of hundreds of coffee shops it seems everyone wants to sit all day, sip lattes, chat about how great their business is (even if there are some struggles), and maybe post about there fabulous coffee date on twitter and Facebook. What the heck world are they living in? Sex and the City 3 possibly?! Now I will add a small caveat with two major points about me; I love sitting and chatting over tea (no coffee for me) with my colleagues and company partners AND I adore shopping local when I decide to indulge.

It seems at least 2-3 times a week I receive a (networking event) follow up email that says something like, “Hi Kia, it was {a pleasure/great/awesome} to meet you at XYZ event. I would love to learn more about your business. Maybe we can grab coffee sometime this week?” They then proceed to give me a couple of days and times that work for them. Now I absolutely love meeting people. Heck, my PR outfit depends on new relationships but there has to be a better way of going about this.

At first I would sit back and think ‘wow, I must be popular because such and such wants to meet with me’. I quickly, like within seconds, snapped out of that thinking and thought that I wanted to get to the root of this situation. I realized that many of us are not making the most out of our networking opportunities, myself included.

When you meet someone at a networking event there are a couple of best practices. Before you get their card, have a brief conversation about the other person’s ideal client, what they are looking for and how your company might benefit them. After all isn’t that the information that you need? Ladies/Gentleman this is the same concept when meeting someone of the opposite sex. This preliminary information ensures that you properly categorize them as someone you would marry, date, or just hang out with, right? Networking is the same. Everyone does not fall within your targeted sphere but might be great to introduce you to someone else. But how would you know that if you don’t find out this info early on?

When networking there is another really big part of the equation to consider. Most professionals, CEOs, and even stay-at-home (domestic engineers) moms create their schedules 1-2 weeks in advance. Unless you have a client we can discuss right now let’s try to steer away from the pop-up meetings. Unfortunately, to some that might be a sign that you are not busy enough. Now let me give my caveat; I do believe that last-minute meetings can happen and you should even put space in your calendar for such but these are usually reserved for crisis situations, prospective clients who might have a crisis or current clients who have an emergency (not quite at crisis level).

Want to Maximize Your Networking Skills consider this…

Have some questions ready before you head to the event. While you don’t want to sound scripted, others will appreciate that you are focused on relationship development, building your business, and most of all that you are prepared. I suggest creating 3-5 elevator pitches before you ever step into a networking scenario and then once you are ready you can break one of them based on the guests of the room.

Know what categories of people you want to network with. It is true that everyone you meet will not become a client but many times they may lead you to a client. To get you started I would suggest adding these categories: complementary businesses which are things that will play well with your company without competing, business services which are general services that you or your client may need and will leverage you as a connector, and just all around great people to know who can refer and make introductions to potential clients or customers.  Honestly, you might add one more category of people you meet that you do not want to do business with.  While that sounds brutal it will save your resources and your brand.

Create a listening strategy.  I teach whole seminars on the ability to listen but very quickly I can tell you at the very least you want to keep the person, listen between the lines, and when you ask them questions make sure they are a strong follow-up to something they said.  As an example you might ask, “your company handles public relations, is there a specific industry you primarily work within?” This will let them know you were listening and that you have the capacity to get the information you are looking for.  Oh, and keep them talking and sharing. The more you know about them the easier it will be to build a lasting relationship.

Follow up via email and then a call. The hardest thing for most entrepreneurs to do is stop their day for a coffee date that might not result in much for them. Instead, I have found that it is best to create an email rapport and then SCHEDULE time to chat via phone or Skype. Another idea is to invite them to another networking event so that you can have one more professional encounter with them. After you have danced together a little while (2-4 emails, calls) then you can meet in person and have the fab coffee straight out of SATC!

I still want to feel popular and hear from all of you but let’s build a fabulous relationship before we spend all of our time (and money) drinking tea!

Kia Jarmon is a brand strategist and PR coach with the boutique public relations firm, The MEPR Agency. She speaks, blogs, mentors, and is an author.

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