As I am getting more and more excited to meet fellow wine bloggers at the European Wine Bloggers Conference (http://winebloggersconference.org/europe/) in Vienna on Thursday I was pondering the power of networking.
Networking – i.e any activity designed to create, maintain and utilize interpersonal connections - is one of my favourite pastimes! I really love it as it allows me to connect to like minded people and learn from them.
Networking is also an essential business skill as it allows you to make the vital connections that your wine business needs to survive and prosper in today’s super-connected economy. Effective networking consists of preparation, delivery and follow through.
So how can you build a successful network for your winery? Let me take your through the 3 steps and give some examples along the way
Prepare the famous elevator speech! When someone asks you what you do, you are being given a golden, but brief, opportunity to knock his or her socks of. Make sure you grab this opportunity! In order to effectively do so prepare a 15-30 second speech in which you articulate your skill set and business focus in a clear and concise manner – and make sure you can deliver it in a compelling way.
Part of the preparation is also to set your networking goals – what do you want to achieve from this network. If you haven’t taken the time to determine what your goals are for the encounters ahead, you will have a hard time meeting them. Some winery goals could be share knowledge, look for a distributor, market knowledge or check out the competition and see how good your wine stands up to the rest of the wines at the event.
Lastly, make sure you have everything you need to successfully connect – eg business cards, the correct attire for the event and a positive and confident attitude!
One great advantage of good preparation is that the delivery generally is pretty smooth. You feel confident as you know what you want from the network, have honed your elevator pitch and have everything you need to be successful at your finger tips. This confidence will shine through in your delivery with a high success rate as a direct result.
The most important part of networking happens after the initial contact. I can highly recommend following up promptly in a way designed to strengthen the relationship and add value for the other person. When you make contact shortly after meeting someone you would like to add to your network, you reinforce your initial contact and carry through a scent of enthusiasm about your common interests. A follow up call/email also lays the grounds for further contacts in the future. A perfect example of a follow up email is a thank you note for the time invested and knowledge shared. And as thank you notes are a dying breed these days this will definitely make you stand out in a good way:)
Well yes networking takes time, dedication and attention but it’s a truly enriching experience and therefore I feel it’s time very well spent! In the next few posts I will talk more about networking but focussing on the social media networks.