Do you think business networking means being a big phony? Talking about yourself nonstop and forcing your business cards on everyone you see? In reality, a more natural approach to networking pays off much better. Here are some tips:
- Set a goal. Do you want to meet potential clients, meet other business owners whom you might work with to attract customers, or simply get known in the local community? Determining a goal will help you select the right networking.
- Consider your options. There are networking groups for specific types of businesses, such as startups or women-owned businesses. There are also ones devoted to specific goals, such as leads clubs or referral building networks. Ask other business owners you trust what their favorite organizations are and why. If you’re not sure what group to choose, your industry trade association and your local chamber of commerce are good places to start.
- Be prepared. Have plenty of business cards and choose a smartphone app that lets you exchange contact information quickly. Have a short, interesting introduction otherwise known as an elevator pitch that explains what your business does (“I help small businesses save money by auditing their utility costs.”)
- Ask questions. Don’t spend the whole time talking about yourself. Asking questions gets others to open up to you. They’ll think you’re a great conversationalist—and you’ll learn something that will help you build a business relationship.
- Follow up. When you meet someone you want to follow up with, do so within the next few days after the event while the interaction is fresh in their mind. At minimum, connect with them on social media so you don’t lose touch.
- Assess results. After attending a group a few times, you should have a sense of whether it’s of value to you. If not, move on.