Successful networking is a must for any small business. There is only so much that advertising can accomplish when you are trying to spread the word about your company. Regardless of the industry you are in, you can bet the titans in your field already have the market cornered for brand recognition. Unlike advertising where you are trying to bring potential clients to you, networking puts YOU at center stage. It can be seen as a great opportunity or a nightmare depending on your experience and personality. Here are some solid tips to get the most out of your efforts and hopefully take the “work” out of networking.
- Have Confidence. First impressions are everything and you know that every day is a job interview. Part of networking is earning other’s trust to refer business to you. Your saggy posture, limp handshake, and starring at the floor in the corner of the room isn’t going to cut it. Stand-up straight, use a firm handshake, make eye contact, and SMILE. You’d be surprised how much of a difference these minor changes can make.
- Don’t Overdo It. I know this sounds contradictory from the last tip but there is a middle ground you have to meet. Nothing is more annoying than someone with their chest way too far out hijacking all of the conversations. You can be confident and humble at the same time. Listen to your fellow networkers. The last thing you want is to give the impression that you think your business is more important than theirs.
- Leave The Sales Pitch At The Office. The vast majority of the people you meet while networking have absolutely no need for your product/service. We all want to make a sale but handing out fliers at happy hour isn’t going to close a deal any time soon. Not only does this stink of the #2 tip, it also makes you look super desperate. The whole point of networking is to build a relationship, not to make a sale on the spot. Keep the conversation casual and if somebody really does want to do business with you, they’ll set up a time with you later.
- Follow-up.You know you’re supposed to do something with all of those business cards you collected, right? Follow up with a brief email saying it was nice to meet them and you hope to see them again soon. The people you met while networking also met thirty other people at the event. They won’t remember you unless you make an effort to be remembered. If you want to build a business relationship and hopefully trade leads than you need to take the initiative and build the foundation. I recommend incorporating a CRM to your business practices for best results.
- Keep Coming Back. We all know the familiar slogan used at groups across the globe, “Keep coming back. It works if you work it!” This is true for networking too. Find a few networking groups that you feel comfortable in and stick to it. Nobody is going to refer business to you after meeting you once. After meeting you fifteen times you’ve got a real shot of your new friends sending people your way.
By the way, networking is a two-way street. The best way to encourage people to send prospective clients your way is to send prospective clients their way. Not only will they remember it, they will be inclined to want to repay the favor.