The success of any business is down to the people who are involved.
From the clients through to the staff, without the right people, a business would struggle to keep its head above the water for any respectable length of time.
Whilst you can’t necessarily choose your clients once you’ve defined your target audience, you can choose your staff and your colleagues, something which can stem from effective networking.
You may not be too keen on the idea of networking, especially if you’re a shy individual (to all intents and purposes, you’re going to be walking into a room full of people that you don’t know), but the simple fact is that networking is one of the best ways to grow your business and ensure its success.
And whilst it’s down to you to carry out the actual networking, you don’t have to go into the meetings without any knowledge and these points should give you a good grounding as to how you can network effectively as a small business owner.
Be confident, even if you’re not
If you’ve been running your business by sitting behind your computer but are about to venture out to a networking meeting, what you have to keep in mind is that it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have met any of the people at the meeting previously.
Whilst it’s not recommended that you completely change your personality, putting on a false front, what is advised is that you’re confident, even if you’re not.
First impressions play a major part in any relationship and if you can walk into a room full of other people by smiling, holding your head high, introducing yourself and simply being polite, as uncomfortable as you might feel on the inside, you’ll hopefully be coming across as particularly confident, something which will naturally boost your confidence levels and help you network more effectively.
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Preparation is key
The basic aim of networking is to be able to meet other people who you can pass on the details of your business too.
As this is apparent, it’s imperative that before you attend any networking events, you know your businesses contact details in full and you have taken a number of business cards ready to distribute.
These may sound like elementary points if you’ve been networking previously, but for someone who’s only starting to network, they’re common mistakes to make.
Think of it as a social event
One of the problems that a lot of people have with networking events is that they get nervous and uptight about going, as they treat it as a formal business event.
Whilst some of the larger networking meetings are usually relatively formal, if you’re only attending local meetings, you’ll find that for the most part, they’re nothing more than likeminded business individuals meeting together as they want to do nothing more than have a cup of coffee and a chat.
Everyone at the events will have, even at the back of their mind, the belief that the networking meetings are to do just that – networking – but this doesn’t mean that you have to make a hard sell or thrust your business cards upon others.
Relationships – both personal and business – are formed naturally, often only requiring for a little nudge along the way and therefore why should networking events mean that you have to ensure that you strike up business relationships?
Take it slow and easy and the benefits of networking will eventually become apparent.
Ask, ask, ask
People like to talk about themselves and where business people are concerned, they like to talk about their company, too.
Therefore, if you’re stuck for what to say, simply start asking questions about a person’s business.
Ask when they set it up, how they got into the industry or what their plans are – simple questions to ask, but you’ll find that the person responding will talk about each point rather extensively, giving you the opportunity to not only consider further questions, but to also strike up a relationship with that person.
Networking meetings may not be events that you’ve considered attending in the past, but it’s strongly recommended that you start. Relaxed, friendly and sociable, it’s highly likely that your idea of a networking event is a lot different to the truth and irrelevant of how shy you may be, it wouldn’t be surprising if you didn’t have an urge to attend another network meeting as soon as possible after your first.
And what’s more, you get to take advantage of talking to people who are in a similar boat to you who might just be able to help your business in the future.
This post was originally published on November 30, 2010.