Networking, in the business world, is meeting new people, making new contacts and exchanging information that may be able to further you with your business operations.
You hear the word “Network” and want to run. I know how you feel; I used to feel the same way! The thought of being at an event or conference that is packed with hundreds of people wearing nametags made me want to hide. For many, networking can be a scary and daunting task. However, it is an essential tool for growing your business.
Instead of running scared, embrace it and learn to take advantage of the opportunities you get. Why, you ask?
Because those who learn to overcome their fears have discovered big rewards. We see that with our clients and members every day. After meeting at our events, we have seen clients and members start doing business together, buy from each other, partner on projects, connect each other to helpful contacts, you name it. The more you put yourself out there, the more you and your business become known. Networking allows you to establish yourself as an expert in your field, and also gives you an opportunity to demonstrate and share this expertise. Establishing this reputation can help you gain invaluable business opportunities.
So now that you know why networking is so important for you business, you need to know how to network. Here is a top 5 list of networking tips that will help make essential connections for your business:
- Have a plan & be prepared
Always bring business cards; however, be sure to pass them out strategically. Prepare a 30-60 second pitch about your business. Set goals prior to the event for establishing new contacts. You can be creative with your goals by challenging yourself to meet a specific number of people. For example, for your first event, challenge yourself to meet 3 new people. You can also prepare ahead of time by checking out the list of attendees. Most conferences or events will provide this list either beforehand or at the actual event. Scan the list for potential contacts and find them during the event.
- Choose the right networking events
Targeting the right events can have a huge impact on the success of your networking endeavors. When choosing networking events, weigh the pros and cons of why this event is important. Ask yourself, who will be the people in the room, and will these people potentially help me take my business to the next level?
- Share your passion
Win people over with your enthusiasm for your product or service. Leave a lasting impression by telling a story about why you were inspired to create your company. Talking about what you enjoy is often contagious. Get others to share their passion too! This will create a memorable two-way conversation.
- Ask questions and listen
Be to the point and ask open ended questions. But, most importantly listen to what the other person is saying. Networking is as much about giving (if not more) as it is about getting. Find out how you can help, whether it is by sharing contacts or something else. This will help you build long lasting business relationships, demonstrating that the conversation is mutually beneficial.
- Follow up
Following up after networking is just as important as the initial meeting. Be sure to organize all the business cards you receive at networking events. This will make it easier to find their contact information when you need to follow up. If someone expresses interest in doing business with you, contact them right away. Quick follow ups show your dedication and ability to keep your word. This also builds your credibility and supports your reputation and image.
Joanne Gillis is the Western Region Start-Up Business Advisor with NLOWE. If you are a woman interested in starting a business and are located in Western Newfoundland, then contact Joanne at 709.632.5122 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.