When it comes to networking, many business owners groan. They immediately picture “schmoozing” their way through Chamber of Commerce meet-and-greets, making small talk while they hand out business cards. Yikes.
Although networking can be a chore if you’re pressed for time, it’s also an incredible way to garner new clients and increase business. If you do it right, that is.
Want to start getting the most out of your networking group to make it worth your time? Then follow these tips:
- Stop Complaining- If you’re spending your valuable networking time “groaning” about how bad business is, hire a therapist. Other business owners are having the same troubles, and it’s only a turnoff if you do nothing but complain. Instead, talk about how optimistic you are that things are going to improve, and see if you can offer others advice on how they could improve their business.
- Commit To What You’re Doing- If you joined a service like BNI (Business Networking International) then don’t show up like it’s a “chore” and barely listen to others in the group. Networking is all about relationships, so take the time to really get to know the people around you.
- Give Before You Get- Many people approach networking with a “what’s in it for me?” mindset. But, this is the exact opposite approach you should take! If you give first (advice, referrals, etc.), then you’re guaranteed to get later on.
- Follow Up- It’s amazing how many people fail to follow up on a referral once someone in the group gives them one. If they care so little, why are they bothering to network in the first place? If someone gives you a referral, call them within 24 hours. And, call the person who passed it along to you and thank them for their consideration. You also might want to send them a thank you card as well.
- Listen, Listen, Listen- If you spend tons of time talking about yourself, you’re not going to get very far. Focus on the other person instead: ask questions, and make sure you repeat their name at least two or three times. People love to hear their own name, and this will make you stand out. Instead of being “that person who talked about themselves the whole night”, you’ll be remembered as an empathetic and understanding listener. A much better impression, right?
It’s truly amazing how just one referral can start a chain of events that can transform your business. Business networking is a valuable tool that you can easily use to find new clients, but to get the most out of your group you need to do it right. Focus on others first, and watch your business grow!