When I started my first business, it was a bit lonely. Sure, I had a business partner, but, sitting in front of the same person everyday, focussed on the goal can be a bit... stressing. A few years later, when I had sold my part of that business and was working on my own, it became lonely.
I turned to networking, thinking it would be the end to all of my troubles and get me a load of business. In one way, it worked, in another, it didn't.
The main thing it did do was remind me that I was not alone - there were/are plenty of other one man bands out there (maybe you are one of them) and getting together made me feel part of a bigger picture. Meeting these people helped my share issues and solutions, which, in some cases, got me new clients and suppliers!
What it didn't do (initially) was get me loads of business and it was all my fault. The main reason for this was that I had not defined a goal for my attendance - just going for the sake of going is probably a waste of time (for business), so I took a few steps to make sure it was worth while.
- Have a goal - collect 10 business cards, get one follow up meeting, meet the organiser etc
- Prepare my elevator pitch i.e. be able to explain what I do in a few sentances - 30 seconds max
- Bring lots of business cards
- Meet a particular type of person (supplier, customer, contact maker etc)
Then, taking the plunge, I said hello to as many people as possible - never be afraid to join in with a group, after all, that is what you are there for, but do try to read the people, as, sometimes, a couple may be in a deep conversation and want a little privacy - learning to read these signs is a different subject altogether.
The, you must follow up - email, invite them to join you on YBC, give them a call - after all, you made the effort to get their card - why waste it!
The one golden rule is never just sell. Saying 'hello, do you want to buy...' will turn people off.