Virtual networking provides countless advantages to boost your business development strategy. Not only can you form long-term relationships with potential clients and business partners, but you get to connect at your own convenience.
Taking advantage of virtual networking allows us to connect with anyone from anywhere. There’s no longer a limit to how far we will travel to meet prospects, or a need to coordinate travel days into our busy work schedule. It also allows us to connect with others in different time zones, and then take our children to soccer practice later in the afternoon. The new virtual world we live in allows professionals within any industry to maintain a personal and work life balance.
Virtual networking is here to stay simply because of the convenience factor. Here’s how to take advantage of this new way of doing business.
Virtual Networking Can Still Be Personal
Just like you would talk about weather or traffic when meeting a prospect in person, you still need to add these casual conversational pieces into your virtual discussions. In other words, don’t make it all about work. Ask about a painting or photo someone has behind them during the video conference call. Ask them questions about their weekend or their hobbies. Side conversations like this make networking fun, memorable and personable. It’s these types of conversations that allow you to form long-lasting, valuable relationships with potential leads that turn into loyal clients.
Add variety to how you connect with your prospects. With the year 2020 behind us, you’ve probably heard or experienced what we often call “Zoom fatigue”. It’s true that being on video or on a long call can be exhausting, especially when you’re trying to separate personal and work life. Ask your prospects if they prefer to meet on camera or over the phone today. Who knows, you may find prospects in your local area who would prefer to meet at a coffee shop.
Other ways to stop top-of-mind with prospects is to share resources. After knowing your prospects interests and appetite for your services, share podcasts, blogs, videos or other resources you’ve found to be helpful. Connecting like this via email allows you to be seen as a valuable resource, helping the potential client to understand certain topics or gain industry insight.
Virtual Networking Adds Flexibility to your Work Schedule
We now have the opportunity to network with people far and wide, whenever it works best for our work or personal schedules. You may find that fitting virtual networking into your busy work schedule is easier than ever. Maybe for you, scheduling multiple video conference calls in one afternoon allows you to cross multiple necessary discussions off your business development to-do list quickly and efficiently.
It may seem difficult to initially connect with new prospects. Once you have their contact information, offer a brief 10 to 15-minute phone call. Brief phone calls remain less intimidating than video conferencing. This phone call can be used to get to know what the prospect’s needs are, what they are looking for and how you can help. From there, having a follow up discussion via video can be a more beneficial use of time and provide an opportunity to share informed insight to what specific services or information the prospect is looking for.
Connecting virtually also allows you have to have multiple resources at your fingertips. When meeting virtually with a potential client, you can have their website up on your computer screen while you ask questions about their operations. Maybe you even skim through their LinkedIn profile during your discussion to speak to specific work-experience or skills the prospect has.
Stick to the Basics
One of the keys to networking is your follow through. Even when connecting virtually, follow up via email or phone to check in with the lead. Ask how they are doing, if they have any questions for you and maybe even bring up a topic of conversation you had together during the call. This is another opportunity to connect with the prospect on a personal level, and form a loyal working relationship with them.
When connecting virtually, be attentive. Give the prospect your entire attention by being in a quiet room with limited distractions and good phone service or a strong internet connection. Silence phone or computer notifications, just as you would in an in-person business meeting.
We get it. Life happens, and sometimes you will need to reschedule virtual meetings. Even though virtual networking is convenient because we can do it from our couch, the airport or the local coffee shop, being appreciative of the prospect’s time is critically important. Don’t forget to communicate in advance if you must reschedule.
The advantages to virtual networking are limitless. It brings ease to your work day, adds flexibility to your business development strategy and expands who you can reach for future business opportunities. If you haven’t added this into your business development strategy, what are you waiting for?! Take advantage of these opportunities, yet keep the foundation of networking skills in place. With these tips in mind, your business development strategy will reap the benefits of virtual networking long into the future.
Thinking about hosting more virtual events to support virtual networking? Check out our blog post, How to Leverage Virtual Events in 2021