By Will Kintish, Business Networking Skills And LinkedIn Authority

There is the reactive way to gain new business and the pro-active method. The reactive way is to do a great job and wait for referrals, recommendations and introductions to come in and clients to call up asking for more help. Great; a nice easy way to grow your business but it’s ‘oh so last century’ and worse than that it means you are relying on 3rd parties to dictate the speed of growth of your client base and business.

The proactive way

As well as providing a good service which results in those calls to you it must be time to become even more proactive by attending as many relevant business events as possible. It’s called networking which we’ve all been doing since 2 years old.

Networking is simply building relationships and every relationship we have now has been built on 3 key steps. Getting to know someone, creating mutual liking leading to mutual trust. But do bear in mind the only thing we sell when we attend events is ourselves and our personality. Nothing else.

The 8 steps

1. Accept more invitations. When we do this we create visibility with new and existing contacts. No-one is expected to be out every night but when you get a business invitation consider it carefully. If you don’t go, you’ll never know! We attend events to meet people and gain useful information and have a good time. Treat business events and social gatherings as the same — the difference being the amount of alcohol consumed! Remember you’re representing yourself or your organisation and can be described as ‘The Ambassador for the Brand’.

2. Before attending events organise yourself and plan and prepare as if you’re meeting a new prospect or seeing an existing important client. The chances are you’re likely to meet both particularly if you attend a local event

3. This leads to meeting more people. Networking is also called word-of-mouth marketing and whatever method of marketing adopted it’s a numbers game

4. Meeting people leads to the building and reinforcing of relationships. Ensure every individual or group you meet you treat them with respect and courtesy. Unfortunately there will be some rude and ignorant people at events, a tiny minority I assure you but you will meet them. Move on courteously as soon as possible. Every encounter should be left with the other person or people saying ‘What a nice person he/she was.’ We all know, at the end of the day people buy people and only deal with people they both like and trust

5. Good networkers spend most of their time asking questions and listening carefully. It’s all about giving and the greatest gift anyone can give to another individual is the gift of time and your attention. Let the other person do most of the talking; be a good listener, encourage others to talk about themselves

6. When you ask good questions and show genuine interest it is possible to spot potential opportunities. I call it the ‘ahaa’ moment. It's that moment when someone says, ‘I’d like to know more about that’ or ‘ My advisor never told me that’ or ‘We have some money saved and really don’t know what to do with it’.

Ensure you spend most of your time on the small talk. It’s that area of conversation where you build rock solid foundations; small talk leads to big business at the appropriate time. You can’t walk into the event asking ‘Anyone need a new advisor or supplier? I’m here. I jest but I have seen something similar on too many occasions. If you’re a member of the Impatience Society, networking isn’t for you

7. Having spotted the ahaa moment it’s time to make the call to arrange the meeting. This should be set up at the event itself. You should say to the prospect with your glass of wine or tankard in one hand and their card in the other, ‘Remember Prospect (don’t call them prospect, give them a name!) you were saying —quote the ahaa sentence- how do you feel about me calling you in a couple of days to arrange for us to get-together so you can tell me more about your issues and let’s explore ideas?’

Try to avoid the word ‘meeting' it sounds too formal at this point in the relationship and in fact too presumptuous

8.Don’t fall down now at the last hurdle; make that call. But if you don’t you probably won’t reach the top step in the start of a potential true relationship — the one-to-one meeting. This of course is where the real business is done. We don’t call because of fear of rejection. But what is the worst that will happen when you call to make an appointment? They will simply find a reason to say ‘Thank you but no thank you’. This hasn’t been a cold call; you met this person at an event and you’re just continuing the conversation you had with them at the event. If you get no business it hasn’t changed your life; if you do...it could and for the better.

The author of this article is Will Kintish, leading UK authority on effective and confident networking both offline and online. If you’d like Will to speak at your conference or training workshops, call him on 0161 773 3727. Visit www.kintish.co.uk and www.kintish.tv and www.linkedintraining.co.uk for further free and valuable information on all aspects of both face-to-face and social networking.