By Sue Henry, CEO of Sue Henry Talks

Do any of these describe how you network at an event or conference:

• Do you dread going and drag that insecure and negative energy with you?
• Do you go anyway, knowing that it’s just a waste of time?
• Do you hang out by the food or bar to look busy because you are uncomfortable and don’t know what to do or say?

Networking events are touted as one of the most effective ways to find new clients or customers. We are frustrated with our lack of results.

Here’s an example of how many of us were taught to network: You attend an event. Some person comes up to you that you’ve never met and strikes a conversation. He asks you what you do because, of course, you’ll then ask him. He doesn’t care about you or what you do – he is simply looking for an opening to start his “pitch”.

He begins talking. Based on the things he says, claims he makes, and strategic sales questions he asks, you feel like baby rabbit being circled about by a hawk with no cover. You can smell his “commission” or “desperation” breath!

You look around for an escape, only to find yourself doing the same thing to someone else!

If this is how you are networking an event, STOP IMMEDIATELY! This type of approach is actually a disservice to those who want, need, and are willing to buy what you offer! You’ll find that prospective customers or referral partners will run instead of trying to determine if you provide solutions to any of their problems!

In this article, I am going to show you that when approached strategically and systematically, networking events truly can help you meet the people who you are targeting. There are 5 basic steps. This article is going to address the first one, trust.

Sometimes even the most seasoned and successful networker can have a mind block in new situations. Whether you are new and shy, seasoned and successful, or anywhere in between, we can freeze. I know this sometimes happens to me, too. So, I developed a system to fall back on when I do forget or lose track. Basically, I use my hand to remind me of the 5 steps to effectively working a networking event. Take a look at your hand with the palm open...

Trust is assigned to my thumb because the thumb is so important in all of the ways we use our hand.

There are 4 steps in building trust within our business relationships:

1. Invisibility
2. Visibility
3. Credibility
4. Profitability

Each of these steps needs to be followed in a sequential order in order to achieve optimum results.

When you first arrive at a networking event, there are going to be many people you don’t know. You are “invisible” to each other.

The next step in creating trust is to become “visible”. You have 2 ways to do this: you can go up and introduce yourself or you can have someone you know who already knows that person offer a personal introduction.

If you go up on your own, what should you say? Although we’ll cover more about this in an article specifically on Step 3, “Interested and Interesting”, here are a couple of tips:

• Look approachable. Be aware of your body positioning and how you are walking up to the person.
• Smile. Keep a pleasant countenance on your face. No one cares about how nervous you are – pretend like you are an actor and have this part mastered!
• Open with something other than “hi”. One of my favorites is “You look like someone I should get to know”.

Be sincere. Then introduce yourself.

If you have asked someone to personally introduce you, share with them why you want to meet this person. This needs to be more than “I want to do business with them”.

One of best things I discovered is to look at attendee or membership list a few days prior to the event. Identify 2 types of people: the ones you have a great relationship with that usually attend the event and the ones you’d really like to meet.

Once you’ve determined who you want to be introduced to, do some online research. What is the person’s background? Special interests? Hobbies? The goal is to find something that you are both interested in. Knowing this information provides a genuine topic to discuss and it use as the topic when being introduced.

For example, we are organic dairy farmers. If one the people I want to meet has in his or her profile that they were raised on a farm, has a small hobby farm, etc, or is a gardener, it provides a foundation to move from invisibility to visibility.

What we say and how we say it moves us from visibility to credibility. So using the example above, let’s say that the person I want to meet was raised on a dairy farm. I can ask questions about some of the experiences he/she had growing up, the types of jobs, how they farmed, work ethic learned, etc. We’ll make a great connection based on common experiences and move into credibility.

I’ll get the person’s card and move on to the next person I want to meet. (We’ll talk about how to follow up in a future article under Steps 4 and 5.)

Successful and effective networkers begin to build a relationship at events. The opportunity for sales comes much later. If you move into the “sale” during this first meeting, most of the time you’ll lose future opportunities because you’ll be seen as a predator.

This process will seem long and tedious for those who want to make sales quickly. If you are the type of person who wants to receive multiple sales and referrals from the people you meet, be patient and work the process. I promise you, it will be worth it!

Remember, when all things are equal, people do business with people they like, know, and trust. When all things aren’t equal, people still prefer to do business with people they like, know, and trust.

Author's Bio: 

Sue Henry is CEO of Sue Henry Talks. She is a speaker and has had more than 4000 people in her workshops representing over 20 countries. She teaches effective networking skills, offline and online. Her most popular course is "Social Media Marketing Success in Just 15 Minutes a Day... For Those Who Aren't 20-Something Anymore". She teaches how and what to say to build relationships and referral partners to increase profits in just 15 minutes a day. She's a contributing author to the NY Times bestseller, "Masters of Sales", and Amazon bestseller, "World's Worst Networkers".