Connecting with industry peers and potential clients can be daunting, even for the most adept salesperson. Keep it simple and fun with these networking ideas.

There’s some irony to the reality that many salespeople (and others, for that matter) don’t enjoy networking events. After all, you meet new people every day in sales—it’s a significant part of the job. But events are somehow different. There’s more pressure, fewer icebreakers, and frankly, most networking ideas don’t do much in the way of facilitating actual networking.

For better or worse, networking is a necessary part of almost any job, and especially sales work. And it’s necessary because, believe it or not, it is actually helpful. Of course, not all networking ideas are created equal. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re attending events that will benefit you more than they’ll bore you.

networking ideas

The importance of networking and how to do it well

Connecting with colleagues is valuable for a few reasons. The first is that you get to know who’s who in the industry: who’s successful, who’s innovative, who’s more talk than action. Knowing these people can lead to new business opportunities or even employment opportunities down the line. It can also give you a pulse on where your competitors are at, which can help you drive your own numbers.

Following through with a few networking ideas is also important because it helps make you an expert in your field. Many people tend to know snippets of information, which, when shared, help everyone to become more well-rounded and therefore better equipped to find success.

1. In person or online?

A good set of networking ideas should include both online and in-person interactions. LinkedIn, for example, is a popular way to make new connections and forge new relationships. You might even be able to network through Twitter or Instagram. A word of caution, though: Don’t get too comfortable behind your smartphone screen. When it comes to networking, the best connections come from in-person events.

lead-managerlead-managerKeep track of your new connections with Blitz’s sales CRM software. Schedule a free demo to see what you’ve been missing!

Mingling with strangers face-to-face isn’t easy for most people. However, it’s the best way to convey who you are, what you need, and ultimately, bond with others who may be able to help you. In person, you have eye contact, body language, tone, and so many more tools at your disposal that help facilitate communication. Online gives you an idea; in person gives you the real thing.

2. The best ways to network

Common networking ideas usually include cocktail hours, seminars, meetings, and career training. While these events can be helpful, they often involve dozens or even hundreds of people and little facilitation.

More effective networking ideas include smaller groups of people, icebreakers, facilitated discussions, and team-building activities. These types of events are harder to find, but the people you’ll meet and stay connected to will make the search worthwhile.

Another way to network is to go on an industry-related retreat. This is one of the most daunting kinds of networking—you’re throwing yourself into a place with strangers for two or three days—but it’s also one of the most rewarding. The people you meet on a retreat tend to stay with you because of all the time you spend together.

3. What not to do

Networking ideas can be extremely helpful, but they can also be harmful if you don’t fully understand the etiquette of business networking. Something as simple as a weak handshake can give someone an negative impression of you that may last beyond the event.

Some other things to avoid are using language that’s too casual or inappropriate, getting too personal (though a little bit is expected and encouraged), talking over people, being a know-it-all, and any physical contact apart from those all-important handshakes. It may seem like there are a lot of rules, but remember, you’re making a first impression. You want it to be a good one.

4. Following up

Following your great networking ideas is the right place to start, but if your relationship doesn’t extend outside an event, it won’t be worth very much to you. Don’t wait for someone to reach out to you. Take the initiative to connect through e-mail within one week of an event. In some cases, it may even be appropriate to get in touch the next day, particularly if someone presented an immediate business opportunity.

When you do follow up, remember that this person is still your colleague or prospect, not a casual acquaintance. Their time is limited and valuable, just like yours. Keep your email short, express your interest in staying connected, and leave the ball in their court. Some connections won’t last, but the ones that do will be worth the anxiety and awkwardness of a room full of unfamiliar faces.

lead-managerlead-managerKeep track of your new connections with Blitz’s sales CRM software. Schedule a free demo to see what you’ve been missing!

Are you a master networker? What kind of things have worked for you? What things haven’t? Tell us your experiences in the comments below.