Business Networking the Fun Way

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As a small business owner I understand the importance of networking.  Yet for many years I cringed at the thought of it...trying to avoid it at all costs.  To me it just didn't feel good to put myself in a room full of strangers and then try to think up something witty and engaging to say.

Then a couple years a very successful friend let me in on a little secret about networking that completely changed my whole outlook.  The secret is this:

Networking is not about building a prospect list or getting more people in your funnel.  Networking is about making personal connections with real people and nurturing those relationships to create a net of support.

Wow, who knew?  Personal connection in this day and age of technology?  But if you think about it then it makes perfect sense. A basic human need is to feel connected.  And our fast-paced world doesn't leave a lot of time for that.  So if you can help people feel connected you'll automatically stand out in the crowd.

So how do you do that?  Here are a few pointers that have helped my friend skyrocket to success:

  • Spend more time listening and asking questions than talking about what you do.
  • As you listen to the other person talk, pay attention to their problems and issues.  How can your product or service provide a solution?  And if it can't is there anyone you can refer them to?
  • If - and only if - you have a solution for them offer your help.  The thing to say here is something like "I think I can help you with that, can I give you a call next week?" 
  • Realize that a networking event is not the time to present a product or try to sell anything.  It is about connecting...save your presentation for the follow up.
  • Acknowledge the other person's expertise and ask for help or advice on a related issue.  People love to help and to be looked up to.  This also gives them a reason to connect with you again later.
  • Hand out memorable business cards, preferably with a question, invitation or free offer printed on them.  My friend sends them to a website for a free download related to a certain problem people in that industry face.  Someone else I know sends them to a website with a survey which asks for their opinion.  Still another person offers a free dessert if they stop by their restaurant.  The bottom line is that if you give the person something to do they'll be much more likely to keep your card than otherwise.
  • If you have to use corporate designed cards, print your special offer on additional paper or business card stock.  Make sure to include your name and contact information in case they lose the original card.
  • Write short notes on the back of cards you receive to help you remember the contact.  Keep some post it notes in your pocket in case you get a double sided card with no room for writing.
  • As soon as the networking event is over, add them to your database and send a thank you e-mail.  Include a personal sentence or two from your notes.  Make sure you invite them to connect to the social networks you participate in, remind them of your free offer from the event and give them your website and contact information once again.  You may also want to add them to a specialized auto-responder series to stay connected.  Yes - I understand that if you gathered a lot of cards during a networking event this could seem a daunting task.  It is critical though so either do it yourself or hire someone else to help you (hint - great job for teenagers with accurate data entry skills).
  • If you've promised to follow up then do it.  And it doesn't have to be about business either.  I've given people information on churches, dog clubs, contacts at other businesses and all sorts of other things.  The important thing is to build credibility by keeping your word.

Finally, understand that if you're connecting with too many people to keep track of then you're wasting everyone's time.  A shoe box full of business cards is useless if you never look at them again.  It's better to build fewer real connections and nurture a relationship with them in time.  What you will find is that you'll get more business from those few than you'll ever get from a mountain of cards from people you don't even remember.

Happy networking - maybe we'll see each other at an event someday :)

Maria Meiners is known as the "Manifesting Muse," and helps ordinary people learn to Manifest using Law of Attraction principles. If you're new to manifesting, or frustrated because it doesn't seem to be working in your life then Maria can help you get real, measurable results starting today!

Ready to get started? Get your FREE Manifesting Kit at http://www.musemanifestingkit.com

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