Every small business owner knows networking is essential. Many entrepreneurs believe they know how to network but as with any skill, personal growth and refinement are how to go from good to great. Here is a collection of networking ideas from business owners around the nation.
1. Sending a Facebook message isn’t networking. Networking involves meeting people face to face and forming a relationship. It will likely force you to operate outside of your comfort zone but it is the only way to become a master networker.
2. Be of service to others. If you approach networking as a way to increase your business revenue, you are likely to fail. Relationships form best when you go in with the intent of helping somebody else. Offer your help without expectations for something in return.
3. Talk less, listen more. Have you ever met people who want to talk about themselves throughout the whole conversation? Those people are often well intentioned but they may not form long-term relationships because they don’t take an interest in others. When networking, learn more about the other person than you communicate about yourself.
4. Don’t pre-judge. We all make first-impression judgments about the people we meet. Even if the person doesn’t appear as if they can add value to your business, it’s worth investigating further. You never know who they have in their network that could be of value to you.
5. Quality over quantity. Although you should take time to get-to-know others at networking events, dinners, and other social engagements that doesn’t mean you should invest time into everybody you meet after the event. Just like personal relationships, pursue people where you see potential.
6. Build their ego. Do you want to meet an influential person but don’t know how to approach them? Start with a compliment. For example, telling them that their support of a local nonprofit is inspiring to you is the perfect icebreaker.
7. Connect people. Remember #2 above? You can be of service to people by introducing them to each other. Maybe the person you’re talking to could benefit from talking to somebody already in your network that knows how to promote businesses online. Connecting people makes you look good to both parties.
8. Keep your political views to yourself. Unless you are at a fundraiser for a local politician, your views on topics like politics, religion, and the local sports team are best left unsaid. Do not say anything remotely controversial and make sure every word that you speak is positive.
9. Limit your drinking. Having a cocktail is fine but limit it to one or two. Slurring your words, acting obnoxious, and becoming the person everybody talks about after the event is not good for business.
10. Don’t over-network. You have a business to run and it has to produce income right now. Networking is an investment in the future. Spending 10 hours each week on LinkedIn and attending daily networking lunches isn’t the best use of your time.
Want to learn more? Watch our webinar on 7 Steps to Successful Selling for Small Business.