Networking is a tried and true way to build up your business. Before the internet, business networking was one of the key ways to get in front of a new audience and get referrals and so on. It is still a very valid way of doing business.
There are innumerable places to go and get seen and to make relationships that will get you the business you want. Though there are a few key things to keep in mind when starting to network.
1. Build Relationships first
All good business starts with a relationship. There is nothing so terrible as going to an event and being sold to every step of the way by people who do not know whether you need or even want what they have. So, do not be that person. Instead, show interest in people, ask questions and offer assistance when you can. Try to keep the dollar signs away form your eyes when you go to your networking group and see it as a way of building up your contact list and also a way of increasing your circle of influence.
2. Strike Up Conversation
Choose to be the one that pulls people together. Where possible, become the leader of your local group and welcome people in. Whether you are host or not, make people feel at home. Stand by the door and welcome new people in and link them with others already in the room.
Shake off your own nerves and recognize that most of the people in the room probably feel the same way you do. All you need to do is have a few key questions under your sleeve and get the other person talking. Then you can listen in, get an understanding of how you might be able to support them and at the same time, gain a friend who feels pretty good about themselves because you listened.
3. Be Strategic
Choose to be in places where you are likely to find the people you want to do business with or places you know you can get referrals. Do not spend time and money in networking events where your prospects or referral sources are unlikely to be. Do your research and figure out the best places for you. And if you find that you have committed to being in a place where your people are not then, do not make the same mistake more than once.
Come bearing gifts as well – Have a giveaway to give to everyone who is relevant and willing to give you their card. Ask for their permission to stay in touch and then send the occasional email to them reminding them of who you are. Possibly, meet outside of the meeting, as well. Do not be the same as everyone else and carry business cards, consider having an audio CD to give away instead or offer to send them a link to something you created that will support them.
4. Have your introduction practised and in mind.
This was something I always seemed to forget when I went to events. I would turn up and have to create my introduction on the fly which would of course, make me feel pretty nervous. Instead of that, plan it all ahead. Plan out exactly what you will say and practice until it becomes second nature to you.
5. Choose to Be There Fully
I have to end with this one because for too many people, they get so nervous that they are dreading being there and then counting down the seconds until they can leave. I get it but honey, this could build your business so leave your nerves at the door.
Before you go to a networking event, make a goal list of the number of people you want to talk to and focus on making it happen. Do not expect to get great results immediately but you can expect that as you keep turning up, you will get to the place where you feel pretty good about being there.
And the support you can get from other business owners is out of this world but please do not get caught up in the gossip and back-biting that can occur in some groups. In fact, if you find that happening, get out of there immediately. You do not need that kind of energy.
So, what will stop you getting on with it?
If there is anything, it will be something in your head. Some fear, some doubt about yourself and surely, you are not going t allow that to stop you from getting the results you want from business networking.
Give it a try and see how you get on, now that you are bearing these ideas in mind.