Networking like a pro - no matter what stage you’re at in business
Updated: Nov 30, 2021
There are many scary words and phrases out there. “Spider on the loose”; “We’ve run out of coffee”; “Tax return”.
But for some business owners and entrepreneurs, the word that scares them the most is “Networking”.
The good news is networking does not have to be scary, intimidating, yucky – or time consuming.
In fact, when done right, you can use networking to boost your business and get closer to your goals.
And the even better news is that you can train and flex your networking muscle to grow and improve! Basically, the more networking you do, the easier it will become.
What is business networking anyway?
Networking is a strategy that business owners can use to connect with other managers and entrepreneurs, with the aim of establishing and nurturing long-term, mutually beneficial relationships.
And it’s time to get on board! Networking can bring many benefits - in fact, many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs believe much of their success can be attributed to the people they surround themselves with.
Traditional networking events might be organised by your local business association, an industry network, or a specific networking group. And these events can be great, as often they might include a workshop so you can learn something new about running a business.
But you can also network at the shops, when ordering your morning coffee, while at the hairdressers, or while attending a work conference.
Don’t forget, you can also network via online platforms (LinkedIn and Facebook are two common examples). Essentially, the more ways you can network, the more your business will benefit.
What are some benefits of networking?
Networking can help you establish a new business or grow an existing one. Try not to think of networking as “work” or as a “selling game”. Networking will be successful if you can be authentic and look to find other genuine business owners.
People buy from people they know/like/trust so it can be incredibly beneficial to expand your network and let people get to know you.
Benefits of networking:
Expand your network
Embrace new ideas
Gain access to resources
Discover your emotional support network
Find new clients
Find new suppliers
How to make a success of networking no matter what stage your business is at
You can have a lot of fun and make progress no matter what stage you’re at.
If your business is still at the concept phase - use networking to sound out ideas, gauge interest in your industry, and meet people who might be further along their business journey than you and therefore able to offer advice.
If your business is just about up and running - you can go to networking events to build brand awareness, find potential clients and/or suppliers, and learn how to run a business.
If your business is well established - networking events can keep the momentum going, help you cement your reputation as an expert in your field, and keep you connected as you dive deeper into your business growth.
No matter what stage you are at, here are some universal “rules” for successful – and enjoyable - networking.
1. Go to events with the aim of offering some value to the group
This might involve simply being ready to contribute to conversations or willing to introduce people to one another if you know some mutual contacts.
2. Be prepared with business cards and your USP
Your USP is your Unique Selling Point. Start practicing in the mirror saying who you are, and what you do – but more importantly what problem you solve. Often your introduction is referred to in business circles as an elevator pitch, and it can be uncomfortable at first, but we all know that practice makes perfect.
3. Be open minded
Every person you speak to, will have their own network of friends, family, and work contacts. So even if there is no way you could ever do business with the person you are talking to, what about their friends, customers, or suppliers? There might even be introductions you could ask them to make for you.
4. Try to engage in 2-way conversation
If you can encourage an equal conversation, this will help to foster the know/like/trust element that is so important to business relationships.
And your chat doesn’t need to be all about business. If the conversation flows around personal topics like kids/sports/tv shows, that’s great! It means you are building a deeper connection.
5. Follow up
You must follow up after the event. But not in a desperate way that screams stalker!
A simple email saying “It was nice to meet you” is fine. You could connect on LinkedIn or suggest a follow up chat if you felt there was a real connection.
A great tip is to make notes on the business cards you collect when you get back to your car or send yourself a quick email - this is a great way to remember who the person was, and what you spoke about.
If you are looking for more advice and inspiration to create the business you've been dreaming of, please reach out!
You can get in touch with me here