Small business owners are time-strapped. The day-to-day activities of running a business often push the mere idea of networking right off even most thorough to-do lists. But, networking can be critical to the success of your business – it’s been said that up to 75% of business can come from networking. There’s value (personal, professional and monetary) in taking some time to put yourself out there. Below, you’ll find a few tips to get you started.
- Networking and prospecting are not the same thing. Don’t look at networking as a way to sell your product or service, look at it as a way to meet others, have conversations and build connections.
- Find your people and your venue. Find events or groups that will offer you opportunities to meet other business owners or influencers. A good place to start finding events is through your local Board of Trade or Chamber of Commerce.
- Listen – and ask questions. As the old adage states, we have two ears and only one mouth for a reason. Don’t go in with the hard sales pitch and expect great things to happen. Ask questions of others and make the people you meet feel valued. By showing sincere interest in others, people will remember you fondly – and look for ways to connect with you again.
- Be willing to give in order to get. Don’t go in expecting people to hand you advice, their money for your products or their time without your willingness to give to them. If you can, give first. It goes back to point two, people like to feel valued. After listening to what they say to you, look for ways you can give to them.
- Connect with the people you met after the event. Review those business cards you collected and follow up with all of them, even if it’s just to say that it was a pleasure to meet them. By doing so, you take a step towards building a potentially valuable relationship.
The most important thing to remember is that networking is a two-way street. Don’t go in expecting everything without giving, don’t walk in with an agenda and don’t expect your network to come to you without putting in some effort. Establish yourself as a connector who is willing to work with others and the payoff will come.