In business it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And sadly, no matter how true this is, entrepreneurs pay way too little attention to their networking efforts. And most of the times, this means they pay no attention at all. However, when done right, networking can help you build solid connections with relevant people and businesses in your industry or niche. So, make it a priority, and think of it as an investment, not a cost, like most entrepreneurs do. Master the process with the tricks and tips below.
#1. Always have a plan
Building new relationships and getting new customers should be at the top of your business priority list. However, many entrepreneurs end up networking by accident. They just end up being in social contexts without being prepared. Attending events shouldn’t be an accident, it should be a documented and planned decision. Leave for each event with a goal in mind. This will make you more likely to achieve it.
At the beginning of each year, entrepreneurs should include their networking goals in an updated version of their business plans. For instance, you can plan to attend 3 networking events and set a specific goal for each of them: let’s say you want to schedule three follow-up meetings with other entrepreneurs you meet there. Make a list of people who you want to meet and who you want to do business do.
Always ensure you measure the success of your networking efforts. This will tell you how you must adapt your approach to make the most of your efforts.
#2. Always be ready
To ensure you’re always ready to meet your networking goals, try to ask around and see what events others in the industry are attending. Conferences, trade shows, these are all great to get better insights into the latest trends and developments in the field, but also to get to know the right people at the right time. Did we mention this will help you open new great opportunities for your business?
Although many of you are still afraid to show in in social contexts, try to understand that most people attending these events are exactly in the same boat as you. But make sure you never forget about logistics. Keep track of the following previously to attending such events.
- Print and have on you a ton of business cards.
- Your appearance matters. You can’t afford to show up looking like you don’t care. You’re the image of your business and your appearance matters.
- Always invest in things like display boards and banners for your booth. You want people to know exactly what business you represent and how can you two have a mutually beneficial relationship.
- Always have an elevator speech prepared. Learn how to introduce yourself and your business in a catchy and entertaining way. Get your audience’s attention as fast as possible, because we, humans, have really short attention spans. Especially if you’re a bit nervous about meeting new people, this will be of great help.
- Everything you say should be phrased as how you can help others, not what they can do for you.
- Avoid at all costs what is commonly known as hard selling. This will make you look a little annoying. Instead, focus on showing interest in what others do and ask as many questions as possible. This will show interest on your part.
- Let people breathe. As much as you want to show interest in their business, you don’t want to monopolize people’s time.
- Please, avoid falling in the trap of socializing with people you already know. You want to make new connections, regardless of how much you want to consolidate those business relationships.
- Always ask new connections for permission to give them a call or send them an email. This will make it easier for you to follow through with your networking goals.
#3. Get in touch with relevant people
Instead of getting the number of close to 100 people and never getting in touch with them, focus on connecting with fewer entrepreneurs, but have good profiles for mutually beneficial relationships. Put time and efforts into meeting with those important connections, cultivate relationships of mutual trust and never assume these connections are forever. Like in every healthy relationship, mutual efforts are needed.
#4. Use social media
Social media is a great tool you can use to sustain and improve your networking efforts. LinkedIn and Facebook are incredible networking tools when used properly. Learn how to identify possibly fruitful collaborations online and never overlook face-to-face interactions, even if you identify key-collaborators online. Take the relationship to a new level by cultivating good communication, a good sense of trust and mutual respect. Like in all good things in life, a balanced mix between online and offline interactions works best.
#5. Leave your comfort zone
Stepping out of your comfort zone is certainly difficult, but for the greater good of your company, it is mandatory. Although connecting with others in your industry is usually the first step to a fruitful networking strategy, your efforts shouldn’t stop there. Your networking strategy should focus on building connections with people in related industries and sector, too. Collaboration opportunities are everywhere, not only in your niche. So, avoid having tunnel vision when it comes to such matters.
Networking can be a scary process, especially if you’re the kind of entrepreneur that focuses their undivided attention to their business. But running a successful enterprise and opening new opportunities for it will be more than beneficial. So, step out of your comfort zone and don’t miss any occasion to get in touch and socialize with others. It will be worth the efforts, eventually.