Connect, build, grow with networking
It’s an effective way to develop your business … and yourself
In our face-to-screen world, there are still times when face to face is better; networking is one of them. While it traditionally has been seen as a process for building customer contacts and referral business, networking is becoming increasingly important for sharing ideas and best practices between peers – not only within your industry but with fellow entrepreneurs in other lines of business.
Rethink the way you network
Time was, networking venues were seen as extended sales floors. Meet, pitch, sell. Today, however, networking is also about making real and valuable connections for many other reasons. You never know when or where you’ll meet your next valuable employee, learn of a business-building opportunity, or discover the next moneymaking idea. Through networking you can:
Ever been with someone who seems to know everybody? Networking can help you become that someone. If you regularly attend business and social functions – and mix and mingle – attendees will start to recognize you. You can build your reputation as a knowledgeable, reliable and supportive person by offering useful information or tips to others who need them. And being top-of-mind with peers means you are more likely to receive business when they need what you provide.
Sometimes it’s good just to pick up advice and share knowledge. Whether you want to discuss your point of view or get feedback on an idea, networking discussions can help expand your knowledge and enable you to see your ideas from another person’s perspective. Not only can you share the pitfalls you’ve experienced, someone may share some you can avoid.
You never know when, where or how an opportunity will appear. Networking helps increase your chances of an opportunity materializing – from referrals to an offer of partnership or a direct request for your product or service.
Wherever you go, your network goes with you. The same applies to the person you’re meeting. When you connect, so do your networks. If they know someone who has a need that matches your business – and if you’ve made the right impression – you will likely get a referral and vice versa. If you discover an opportunity that sounds perfect for someone in your network, you can share it with him or her and strengthen your relationship.
There’s hardly a more important attribute than confidence for a business owner, and nothing helps increase confidence like regular networking and talking to people you don’t know. Remember, the more you network, the better you’ll become at it.
Always be prepared
People who network effectively always have particular items – tangible and intangible – ready to go when they walk into a networking event.
First, have your elevator speech memorized. This is a short description of what you do, why you’re passionate about it, whom you work with and your value offering. It should be delivered conversationally in 60 seconds or less. Need an elevator speech? Visit sbinformation.about.com/od/marketingsales/a/How-To-Write-An-Elevator-Pitch.htm.
Second, you’ll need to have handouts. Foremost are your business cards – don’t ever run out. You can enhance the moment with promotional items like pens, key chains or USB drives. And don’t forget the mints – remember this is a face-to-face encounter.
Get out there
Get prepped, practice your elevator speech on friends, build your confidence, and then get on the networking stage. You’ll find it to be rewarding for both your business and you.
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