Business Networking is all about relationships and is an essential tool for a small business. Being out in the community to meet and learn about the businesses around you is important, and when networking, there are certain things that one must do. In a previous post, I highlighted the things NOT to do and one may think the opposite of the don’ts would suffice, but we need to pay attention to the things we do to be an effective networker.
We buy from the people we know and trust. The more times we meet, the more we get comfortable with each other. I learned a phrase years ago and I refer to it often. “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” This is most important in a small community like we have here in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and I will assume that it’s true in big cities, too.
Before we begin, I want to share one thought that is always clear in my mind – Always remember to bring business cards, but your goal is not to give them out unless asked for one. When you receive a card, take a moment to look at and read the card.
Pay Attention to the Person You’re Talking To
The number one thing to do is to have a real interest in the business of the person to whom you are talking. When I meet someone, I want to know about their business and if there is something I can do to help them. As we talk, I ask about how long they lived here and of their community interests. I want to appear interested in their business because I am interested.
Remember to Tell Your “Why”
When we network, we always are asked what we do, but when we tell people “why” we do what we do, it leads to much better conversations. People always love to hear why, but never ask. It’s up to us to give them the why. If someone says they are a realtor, we all know realtors, but if that person tells me they are a realtor because they love to put people in their dream homes, I’m more apt to listen because of the passion in their voice.
Make Connections, Not Contacts
The goal of networking is to make connections with the people that can help refer business to each other. Many times, I see people trying to sell their goods and services to prospects who either know someone in that field already or who will never need their services. It’s the people within each of our circles that we need to market to. The only way to reach inside our circles is with trust and we only trust the people we know.
Take Along a Networking Buddy
It can be daunting to walk into a room filled with people you do not know, so why not go along with someone to help you not feel so alone. Yet, please remember, that is exactly why you are there – to meet people you do not know. A network buddy will help. I find the best way to start a conversation is to introduce the person next to you and your buddy is the perfect “wingman.” Just don’t fall into a “comfort zone” and only talk to your buddy.
Business networking is just like any other business meeting. You need to have a plan of action with the interesting people you just met. Most of the people you meet at networking events will not be your client, but the people they know will be. Each of us know at least 100 people, if I make five good connections, I have increased my possible prospects by 500! Be sure to follow-up with the people you meet. Set a separate time for a one-to-one over coffee, invite them to be a network buddy at another event, just get out and network. It’s for everyone!
These are the five do’s and I’m sure the list could expand with little effort. The main thing is to get out there and network. You have a great business to promote and a great reason you do it and you can tell your story best.
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