12 Networking Tips for Business Owners
My first networking event in Canada, six years ago: I was shy, afraid of talking in English with strangers, assuming they all know each other… Finally I’ve asked somebody what I should do:
“Have your business card handy, smile and say “Hi”; everybody’s here to network!”
“That’s it?!” I’ve asked, surprised. 😉
Here’s what I’ve learned since:
1) Start with a question. Why? Because if you’re interested in someone’s else business, chances are he/she becomes interested in your business.. so you don’t have to push to sell (if they need your products, services). Even if not, they might refer you to someone else if you leave a good impression.
2) For those of you who are shy, think about why are you there: more visibility for yourself and your business? To understand the business world? Whatever it is, go out there, smile.. and say “Hi!” It’s so simple! You’re not getting what you want by staying shy in a corner.
3) Another perspective: Do you like to do business with someone who doesn’t have the courage to meet new people? What would you think about them? Maybe they are not professionals? Or they lack confidence?
4) If you are one of those people who like to talk a lot about their business, products or services… may I suggest something? Please try another approach: ask questions and listen more. It’s a great opportunity to find out how you can respond to other people needs, or even gather more information. You never know when you need it.
5) Have a 20 second speech prepared (about you and your business)
6) Networking events are for meeting new people. Pushing to sell during the event it’s not always appreciated. Try instead to build rapport with others during this event; you’ll have the chance to talk about your business later on, during the follow up.
7) Talking about follow up: after the networking event, please follow up at least with the people you enjoyed talking. We all tend to do business with this kind of people. If you leave the event with 6 business cards out of 100, and you follow up with them… you can say it was a great event for you!
8) In the first follow-up email, send something related to the conversation you had with that person: an article or information that might help or clarify a point. Chances are the person will remember you and you can continue to build rapport and trust with these people. Good relationships bring good business and great references.
9) To establish rapport with people more easily, you can pay attention to their primary mode of receiving information: visual, auditory or kinesthetic (feeling-orientated person). The primary mode could be perceived through the type of words they are using or other methods. For example: one’s answer to “You’re not listening to me!” could be “I hear you!” (auditory), while someone else might say “I see what you mean” (visual) or “I feel it’s ok what you say” (kinesthetic). By listening and paying attention to the words used by others, you can determine their primary system: visual, auditory or kinesthetic. If you’re using the same channel to communicate with them (even if your primary channel is different), you will build trust and rapport with them more easily. This could help you communicate more efficiently, get better results and increase your sales. You can read Michael Brooks’ books: “Instant Rapport”, “The Power of Business Rapport”.
10) Time is precious. If you catch yourself talking with somebody that is not interested or doesn’t pay attention, change the strategy or move on! You don’t want to loose your time and his.
11) Be sincere with people and show a real interest in their field and experience. Most people realize easily if you treat them without respect, and it could come back to you. Be polite and thankful.
12) Do you have any goal for this networking event? (number of people to meet, practice something, observing, etc.) It could help you easily navigate through the event and get what you want!
Thank you… now get ready to network! 😉
PS: Any comments and new tips? Share them with us!
Gabriela Casineanu, M. Eng., MBA, ACC, ORSC