Face-to-face business networking with other local business owners is an important part of being successful. Not only can it help you grow your customer base and referrals, but it can also provide numerous opportunities for development, learning and growth.
Here are our tips to improve your business networking approach and how to make the most of the opportunity.
Get into a networking mindset
When you arrive at a networking event, avoid gravitating to people you know. You should initially thank the host and then immediately find someone new to introduce yourself to. This will help keep you in the right frame of mind as to why you came.
It’s a simple – but often overlooked – rule of engagement. By smiling, you’ll put your nervous self at ease, and you’ll also come across as warm and inviting to others. Remember to smile before you enter the room, or before you start your next conversation. And if you’re really dreading the event? Check the negative attitude at the door.
Be prepared with an elevator pitch
An elevator pitch is a short description of what you do, who you work with and the value you offer to your customers or clients. The goal is to be able to deliver this “pitch” in 60 seconds or less, in a conversational way that makes people sit up and listen. Practice it with friends and co-workers until you perfect it and feel confident and comfortable.
Listen when you join a conversation, then show you were listening.
Take a few minutes to listen to the conversation when joining a group of people. An effective way to make a good first impression is to join a conversation with a comment that shows you were listening to the current group of people. Acknowledge a key point to add to the conversation rather than refocusing on you and your work.
Learn how you can help each new connection
Networking is a powerful way to build business connections, but it’s important that your objective in meeting new people isn’t self-serving. Be authentic, ask questions and start every conversation hoping to learn, “How can I help?” Something as simple as offering to make a helpful introduction goes a long way in leaving a positive impression and will often lead to long-term relationships.
Put yourself out there
Give yourself access to business networking situations. Small conferences are a great way to surround yourself with other entrepreneurs and create opportunities to make valuable connections. There’s also less of a spotlight on you.
Investing in an exhibit at a trade show may be an option for you. Look into how it might work, what it will cost you and how you think you might be able to generate business. Trade shows aren’t for everyone.
Do not forget your business cards! Whether you’re at a small business conference, a local networking event, or a trade show. It provides the recipient with essential contact information, reinforces your brand and make you memorable.
After you meet someone for the first time, use the back of their business card to jot a note about something you learned from the conversation and the date and place you met them.