Business networking is a great way to meet like-minded local business owners, and to build those all-important connections that are so essential to growing your business. Not only can networking help you win new business, it can also be a way to find people who can help you with your own business needs – copywriters, photographers, printers, etc. It's also fun! But if you're new to networking, how do you know what you should – or shouldn't – do? Here are 10 top tips to help get you started.
1. Smile! - Don't be afraid to say hello to people and start a conversation. If you're nervous, try going along with a friend or colleague to start with. Just make sure you don't spend the whole meeting talking with them!
2. Have an 'elevator pitch' prepared – That is, if you were to share a lift with somebody going up one floor, you should have a 'ready-to-go' description of your business memorised, so that your lift-sharing buddy would know what it is you do by the time they got out.
3. Be interested, not interesting – Some networkers make the mistake of talking 'at' people about themselves, answering questions that haven't been asked. Boring! Try taking an interest in the person you're talking to, and ask questions. They will remember you more for being interested in them, than for trying to be interesting. If they have any social skills, they should return the favour, giving you the opportunity to tell them a bit about what you do.
4. Follow up – try to arrange at least one follow-up one-to-one meeting from each networking event you attend. You could meet up for coffee in town, or perhaps at one of your offices. This is when you can really start to build those relationships.
5. Remember it's a 'slow burn' process – People do business with those they know, like and trust, and this takes time, so don't expect to walk out of your first networking meeting with loads of new business. Be patient, go regularly, and you will be amazed at how networking works – very often in ways you didn't expect it to.
6. Take your business cards with you! – It's surprising how many people go networking without their business cards, but don't become a 'card thruster' – somebody who gives out their cards to all and sundry without being asked, and who generally just wants to tell you all about themselves. Wait to be asked for your card, or offer one at the end your conversation.
7. Listen more, talk less – If you are actively listening, rather than just waiting for an opportunity to talk, people will be flattered by your interest and attention, and will like and remember you more as a result. You might also be able to get some free advice on a business issue you're having, as most people like to help others and share their knowledge.
8. Have an offer – There is probably a product or service within your business which has a high perceived value to others, but a low cost to you. If so, it's a great way to introduce your business to new customers. Alternatively, and depending on your line of business, you might be able to give away free samples, or offer a free consultation. Be helpful, give advice, and people will remember you.
9. Don't sell 'to' the room, sell 'through' the room – In fact, don't sell at all, as it just puts people off. But don't ignore another attendee because you're not interested in their business, because their best friend might just be your best customer. If there are 20 people at a networking event, and each of those people has 100 friends, colleagues and relations, you have a potential reach of 2,000 people from just one event. And you never know who other people know.
10. Don't forget to mingle – Once you've been to a meeting half a dozen times (and depending on the type of networking event) you'll probably know at least half the people in the room. While it's important to 'touch base' with the people you know, don't ignore the newbies. Remember, you were a newbie a little while ago, and they will most likely be grateful for a friendly 'hello' and a bit of networking advice. After all, you're a pro now!Remember that networking should not be something you do once only. It’s a process, so make sure you book the time out in your diary each month to attend your chosen event. Take your time, build those relationships, and you and your business will soon be reaping the benefits. Good luck!
Member since: 11th March 2014
My name is Victoria Hunter and I'm a true Hertford person - I went to school in Hertford and grew up here. I understand the importance of bringing trusted businesses and the community together, and believe...