When I started my business I knew I had to meet people and get the word out about what I do. But, I HATE cold calling. Whether it is someone calling on the phone trying to sell me something or someone showing up when I haven’t asked for their services, I find the whole cold calling process intrusive and rude. What I do believe in is simply getting to know someone and really caring about what they have to say. I spent the first six months I was in business making networking my full-time job. What did I have to lose? I didn’t have but 2 clients at the time. I tried lots and lots of groups and different methods of networking. I quickly discovered what worked for me and what didn’t. Here is my compliation of the do’s and don’ts of networking.
1) Don’t make your goal to hand out the most business cards at a networking event. – Most people don’t need any more business cards cluttering up their drawers. I have hundreds. I always wait for someone to ask for my card unless I have a compelling reason to think they may want it. But even then, I ask if they want my business card. I believe this is one time that asking permission just makes sense.
2) Find what groups work for you – everyone is different and because of that different groups work for different people. I do believe that even the best group won’t work for you if you don’t actually seek to network with others. There are lots of opportunities available from networking groups at your local Chamber of Commerce, BNI, Business Before or After Hours or other groups and events.
3) Smile and enjoy yourself! – Don’t be terrified of these events. Know what you want to say about yourself and your business ahead of time so if someone asks what you do or what your business is about you don’t freeze up. But relax and enjoy. Even if you are afraid of networking events and having to introduce yourself it does get easier the more you do it. What once seemed scary will seem very natural after a while.
4) Have a goal in mind when you go to an event – why are you there? If it is to meet new people, then a good goal to set would be to meet three new people at the event and set up a time to meet with them one on one at a later date. The one on one meeting is a wonderful way to get to know others better and develop relationships. Find those people you would like to know better.
5) Help others – if you know that a colleague is looking to connect with someone you know and they are at the event with you then introduce them! I enjoy finding people at networking events that are new to networking or don’t know many people. I try to take them around and introduce them to others and help them enjoy their time networking. It’s not always about me. I enjoy helping others to grow and branch out.
What other tips do you have to make your networking successful?