Networking is a skill that many business owners don’t feel comfortable doing. They worry about annoying people, making a fool of themselves, or looking silly. But if you’re not networking, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to grow your business and connect with other professionals in your industry. In this blog, I share some of my top tips.
1. Be prepared
To make the most of your time at a networking event, be prepared to be approached. Understand that you will have to actively engage both with others and with yourself.
Be ready for questions. You never know what people will ask you or how they will react to your answers so make sure that you feel comfortable talking about yourself and discussing what you do professionally without feeling self-conscious or embarrassed by anything said or done during an interaction with someone new.
2. Don’t Sell
You may be thinking that this is the time to pitch your product and service, but don’t do it.
Instead, focus on building a relationship with them. Don’t be pushy or try to sell them anything (unless they ask for more information). Instead, ask questions about their business and what you can do for them in return for their help in promoting you. Be genuine, authentic and attentive; show that you care about what they have to say and are genuinely interested in helping them out.
3. Ask Questions
Asking questions is the first step toward building a meaningful connection. Asking questions about the other person’s business, interests, and family allows you to get to know them before diving into your own business.
If you ask questions about what they do in their free time, they will likely remember you when they are on the hunt for something new to read or watch. If you ask about their family, they may come back asking for advice on how to run their own business or create more balance between work and home life.
4. Be Confident about your Business
It’s important to be confident in your business, regardless of how long you’ve been doing it. You may feel like you’re new to the world of networking and small talk, but that’s ok—the best thing you can do is go in with an open mind and a willingness to learn.
Asking questions and listening carefully will help you understand how people respond when they hear the words “I’m a [blank]”. You needn’t worry too much about being perfect when it comes to explaining what you do; just be prepared for questions and know that there’s no such thing as boring business!
5. Connect and follow up
Following up with people you’ve met is an essential part of networking. It’s a great way to show that you appreciate the time they spent with you, and ask them for any additional help or advice they can offer.
If you’re going to follow up, make sure that your approach is genuine. Don’t just ask for something in return—offer your expertise instead or connect them with someone you know that could be of help or interest to them.
Networking can be intimidating, and it’s easy to feel like a fish out of water. But if you approach networking with the right mindset, it can be an incredible opportunity for you to find your tribe and connect with people who support what you do. All it takes is some preparation, a little confidence (don’t worry, we have tips for that too), and an open heart!