‘Networking’: the word alone strikes fear into many small business owners and even gives some people nightmares! Sadly however, networking is vitally important to small business growth: there are far more people attending a networking meeting who are in need of your services (whether they know it or not at that point!) than there are in your office!
It’s also useful to bear in mind that a networking meeting might not bear fruit for your business for some time, but it’s essential that you maintain a presence and become embedded in people’s minds. The aim is to build relationships, get to know people, trust them and then get to the point where you are happy to refer their services to others. They in turn will be reciprocating, and before you know it, you will be getting calls from referrals from your new ‘sales team’!
So, we agree that networking occasions can be awkward, but we also agree they’re a must-do. So, here are a few tips to help you take those first steps:
• Don’t arrive late – if you’re on time people won’t have settled into groups yet, and it will be easier to speak to people as they arrive and you feel settled, rather than to try to break into already established conversations.
• Be yourself! This is essential, as people do business with people they like.
• Don’t try to ‘hard sell’. It doesn’t work on you, so why would it work on someone else?
• Test out lots of different networking meetings in the early days, and then reduce to attending only those of value.
• Don’t offer your business card to someone unless they ask for it. It’s all about building rapport and if someone asks for your card, they are genuinely interested and have enjoyed their interaction with you.
• Don’t try to work the room. People can sense if you are being genuine and very short interactions are not memorable. Build those relationships!
So go on, what are you waiting for? Get out there and be seen! But take care, networking is addictive! You have been warned!!