You’ve probably heard the statement “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” That’s why networking is so important. As a small business owner, networking is your way of putting a face behind your business- and that is you! And depending on your business, networking allows you to build a referral network- a group of people that will send business your way, and vice versa. Zocate offers free networking events to its members- what better place to practice! Check out the meetup.com page for details on when and where!
Obviously networking is important so here are 6 tips for doing it effectively!
1. Know your 1-minute commercial. You may only have a minute or two to talk with someone new. Don’t bore them with all the details on your business- focus on a few key points like the values you add or what sets you apart from your competition. Short. Simple. Memorable. That’s the key! It’s best to have a few different commercials ready depending on your audience.
2. Know your goal. Attend networking events with a specific purpose in mind. Are you looking for a referral partner? Do you hope to gain a new client or customer? Going in with a clear mission will help you focus your efforts- who to talk to, what to say, what questions to ask, etc.
3. Build a rapport. You attend networking in hopes of meeting someone in a very specific profession so you’re excited when that individual is at the event! You can’t wait to run up to them and tell them how they can help you but that’s the wrong approach. No one likes to be used. Instead, show interest in them as a person by relating to personal stories and take time to build that connection. Build a positive personal rapport first and the business relationship will follow.
4. Be a good listener. Learn how to ask good questions and then make sure you listen to the answers. Ask follow up questions to show you are genuinely interested. If you leave a networking event and your throat hurts, you probably talked too much and didn’t listen enough. No one likes a person who can only talk about themselves.
5. Follow up. This step is tricky- there’s a fine balance between following up and looking tacky. Don’t send someone an email that says, “It was great talking with you at XYZ Networking yesterday” if you didn’t actually talk with that person. We’ve all received those emails and they get deleted rather quickly. However, if you took the time to do #3 and #4, you probably have a few people you truly connected with. It’s important to follow up with these people and continue that personal attention. Finally, end the email, phone message, or letter with a question so you have a reason to continue the conversation.
6. Return the favor. If you end up getting referrals or business as a result of a new partnership at a networking event, return the favor by sending business their way. This isn’t always possible, but maybe you can send them another referral partner and not necessarily a potential customer or client. Say “thank you” and keep them in the loop on whether or not you were able to help the client they sent you.
What do you think? Do you have any other tips to share? Leave us a comment!