How many people do you know?
How many do you work with online and offline on a weekly basis?
Even if you are starting your small business, you are probably better connected than you realize. Still, it’s never a bad idea to expand your network and grow your influence, as that can only help your business develop. But understanding this isn’t the problem — most business owners are aware of the need to make more connections. Unfortunately, networking is often a daunting task for those who aren’t natural social butterflies.
To grow professionally, you should be aiming to learn how to make new connections effectively. Networking with a purpose lets you leverage your contacts for business success.
Here are our best six networking tips:
- Find Opportunities to Connect
No matter what your industry or occupation is, there is always an opportunity to connect with like-minded professionals or potential partners and customers. You don’t have to attend a significant event or a conference, although they are a great place to start. However, you can have a productive encounter anywhere, as long as you talk to other people.
Work on your elevator pitch for these situations. When someone asks you what you do, you want your answer to intrigue them and invite them to ask more questions. A nice trick to make this happen is saying what you (can) do for people instead of your occupation. For example, instead of saying “I’m a small business owner in the health and fitness industry,” you could say “I help busy women reach their health and fitness goals.” If you’re talking to a busy woman or another health and fitness professional, a positive reaction is more than likely.
When it comes to building a network online, the rules are similar. Whether it is on social media or through your website, it’s important to offer value and make it clear how you can help people. Joining online communities such as Facebook groups is a good starting point. Reach out to other professionals in your industry online and exchange some experiences, tips and tricks. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to organically build a connection once you find some common ground.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Network
For the introverts among business owners, networking can be quite tricky. It can even create negative emotions like anxiety and stress. Being aware of it before you start networking can help you prepare for those feelings and counter them. Some mindfulness meditations or scenario preparation might help with social anxiety.
When you’re networking at conferences, it helps to know that virtually everybody else is in the same situation. At large events, it’s not so weird to approach a stranger and chat with them since everyone is doing it.
However, if you wish to be proactive outside of conferences, you need to let go of the fear of networking. That will only happen if you manage to turn it from an unknown scary thing into a comfortable activity.
Practice your social skills until you start feeling more relaxed. Test out a few different approaches to see what feels right for you. Some proficient networkers have developed numerous scenarios that they fall back on and execute every time in case the conversation isn’t going so well.
- Listen to What People Say
The key to being remembered in conversation with other people is to make them feel good and make sure you stand out. Good conversationalists often accomplish that just by listening to the other person and building rapport.
Think back to the last awesome conversation you had with someone. Did they take time to ask questions about you? Did they listen intently and make the conversation about YOU?
If they did, how did that make you feel? Compare it to someone who only talks about themselves. The differences are apparent.
Always remember what people tell you about themselves and when something comes up that you know they’d love, share it with them. For example, a webinar that will discuss the symptoms they’ve been experiencing, an eBook that has quick and healthy recipes, or a guide that gives the top 10 exercises to do daily.
- Aim to Provide Value
Connecting with others takes effort, especially when you want to impress someone who can make a difference in your professional life. If you want someone to be of use to you, you first need to be of use to them.
How do you provide value when first meeting someone online or offline? There is no easy answer to this question unless you ask all the right questions and they give you all the right answers.
You have to make the first move when it comes to value creation. When you figure out what “value” means to them by asking the right questions, that is when networking starts to get easy! That is when you can use your expertise to start sharing valuable content with them and getting them more engaged with you and your business.
- Become the Connector
There is immense value in being that person in the network who “knows a guy” for anything. After all, the adage of any business goes “it’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” What if one of your contacts needed a marketing wiz and you happened to know one in need of work? You’d connect them, and gain something in return, too.
By providing an introduction, you’re increasing your networking influence, as you now can ask for introductions in return. Maybe that marketing wiz knows the right person you need to get your next project off the ground, and will happily return the favor to you. Being the connector also ensures that you always know who to call, no matter what the situation at hand.
- Always Follow Up
Following up is, unfortunately, the part where many business owners fail. Even once you’ve met someone, finding your way into their email inbox and starting a correspondence can be difficult. That’s why it’s also important to connect with them on all of their social channels. It’s not rare today where someone is more active on social and quicker to respond to a direct message there than by email.
Many people try to reach out once and then give up the chase if the contact doesn’t respond. Unfortunately, the only one who loses in that situation is you.
It’s important to realize that sometimes your new contacts will be too busy to respond at first, and forget to do it when they’re free. More often than not, it may take multiple touches via email and social to get an answer. However, if you do it the right way, the response is likely to be positive.
For any entrepreneur looking to get their business to new heights by connecting with others, it’s going to be helpful to master our six tips. Networking takes some time and careful planning, but your efforts will undoubtedly pay off with practice.