Networking is an important aspect of business growth, regardless of the size of the company. You can be a sole proprietor and gain overflow business from someone you meet at a convention. Or, a community get-together may introduce you to a nearby vendor offering lower prices on raw materials.
You never know where, when, why or how you’ll find that business contact who can help grow your business through company synergies, but you can be sure you won’t find the contact if you don’t get out there and start shaking hands.
Networking isn’t hard, but it can take some time to build a relationship of trust and reliability, so the sooner you start networking, the more names you’ll have in your contacts file.
1. Get there early. Arrive at the site of the local trade show or industry convention before the room fills up and attendees break off into small groups of business friends and associates.
Get there an hour before the presentation starts, find other early arrivals, and grab a cup of coffee. Focus on how your company can help your new friend, and how that small business owner can help your company.
2. Don’t sell. Don’t hype your company (or you) when establishing a good networking structure. If the person listening to you doesn’t see any advantage in working with your people, you’re just wasting time.
Networking isn’t just about business. Make a friend in your sector and you may have an ally, or even a mentor, who can show you how to grow – FAST!
3. Don’t be shy. Networking involves meeting people you don’t know. That’s okay. If you’re at a local convention, many people won’t know who’s sitting next to them.
If you get there early, or during a break in the action, find a group or a loner, introduce yourself, and ask if you can join the discussion. Then, listen. You may have stumbled upon a group of experts who can share the secrets of success if you don’t do all the talking.
On the other hand, if you have something of value to contribute, it could be your chance to establish your expertise and authority within your business’ sector.
4. Buy the coffee or snack. You just met a subcontractor who can help grow your business. Pay for the coffee and croissant to create reciprocity. You did something nice for your new acquaintance; now that new acquaintance may feel indebted to you for the cost of a cup of coffee. Now that’s a good investment.
5. Don’t pump up your profile. You probably have a short biography on the company website, and your LinkedIn® profile reads like you invented oxygen. Keep it short, keep it honest, keep it focused on the movers and shakers within your business sector. A bloated profile: (1) is more than prospects need to know about you and your company; and (2) sounds like bragging.
You may be good. Now prove it by delivering benefits to new contacts. Don’t talk about how good you are. Show how good you are.
6. Find common needs and benefits that you and your new business acquaintance can share. Your company makes widgets. You meet a contact whose company sells widgets. That’s networking at its simplest.
7. Let the other party do most of the talking. When you talk, you don’t learn anything new. When you listen, you may discover new marketing channels, or new products and services that dovetail nicely with the newest member of your business network.
8. Don’t be a card collector. You attend a business trade show and collect a few dozen business cards. EVERYBODY hands out business cards at industry-specific trade shows. Back at the office, you go through the stack of cards you collected last week, only to discover that you now have a stack of business cards from people and companies that can’t or won’t benefit your business.
Don’t go for quantity when collecting contact information. Go for quality and synergies that help both companies.
9. Ask questions. How can we work together to make things better for both of our companies? How is your website constructed? Does your company use smartphone technology to pro-actively reach out to potential buyers?
Don’t expect a new business acquaintance to give away the company secrets, but you can often find out what works for other businesses in your circle, and what doesn’t work.
Provide answers to questions and share helpful information with the right power networker. Again, don’t monopolize the conversation. Listen and learn.
10. Follow up. You made initial contact at the monthly Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Next, follow up. Send marketing collateral to those you just met.
Give your new business friend a telephone call, have lunch (and pick up the tab), play a round of 18 holes. Do something to further develop each member of your network. Find out what they enjoy (just ask them) and share that activity. Now, you have more than a new business supplier. You have a fourth for golf next Wednesday.
Also, keep your promises and honor your commitments. If you promised to send one of your networking experts to a sub-contractor’s office, keep your promise and send that computer expert.
Networking is about synergies, consistency of message, quality of services or products, and making new friends without boring them about how great you and your company are.
Power network to discover the advantages of working with other experts and companies. Then, watch your business grow.
The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.