As a small business owner, one of the most effective ways to finding help is through interpersonal networking. Building a network of trustworthy and reliable people in a variety of industries and disciplines can help you effectively build your business without spending a lot of precious cash on expensive help, but instead be able to invest in people you know who can help you generate more business. There are a number of ways to build a successful business through networking and we’re going to explore 8 secrets of great business networking.
1. Be Genuine in Your Relationships
Networking is building a personal relationship and the first secret to great business networking is you must be genuine when building these relationships. As you start attending business events and meeting people, you will find it takes time to build quality business relationships. Networking is about being authentic, trustworthy, and building a business relationship where you can help each other.
2. Visit Many Different Networking Groups
Visting a wide variety of business groups or events will provide opportunities to meet different people. You may find that these different networking opportunities will help you find people you will connect with. We regularly visit different networking groups in niches we’re interested in: SEO, social media, small business, technology, and non-profits. Each of these groups exposes us to different people and we have made a number of friendships with each different organization.
3. Volunteer with an Organization
Volunteering with an organization or serving on the board of a non-profit is a wonderful way to meet people. When you’re serving with an organization, you meet people who have similar interests and a desire to help others. This helps bring out your genuine side and you meet people you would want to do business with.
The additional benefit from volunteering with an organization is that you feel like you can make a difference. Giving of your time (your most valuable resource) helps refresh and reenergize you through the grinds of daily business.
4. Spend Time Building Relationships
Networking takes time. One of the reasons most people fail in business networking is they don’t understand the time commitment and then once they realize it, they won’t invest as much time as it requires.
We have to be purposeful when we spend time building these relationships. I make sure I cultivate my network, occasionally reaching out to people I haven’t heard from in awhile and connecting with them on a personal basis. For example, I will send an occasional email to certain people who I know lead a busy life just to check in on them. I also send handwritten cards to people to let them know I’m thinking about them. These efforts take time, but they also build strong relationships with people.
5. Be Known as an Expert
One of your tasks when networking is explaining your platform and then delivering on your stated expertise. As you become known as a resource for something, you will find referrals and business deals will quickly follow. Everyone’s looking for trustworthy experts in areas of need and your ability to deliver will increase your ability to network.
6. Prepare a 30 Second Speech
As you interact with people and they ask you what you do, you should have a 30 second summary of your business prepared. When someone asks “what do you do?” a 30 second speech will help explain your business or expertise in a concise manner. This speech needs to be in plain english and you need to practice it.
Describing your business in 30 seconds will also help define what’s unique about you and your business. This will help you focus on your niche and what you are really good at doing.
7. Know What Help You Need
How many times have you met and spoken with someone and then asked, so what kind of help are you looking for? It’s disappointing when you see a blank stare or a feeble response, “I don’t know.” Know what you need help with! You don’t know when you’re going to run into someone or meet someone for coffee at a moment’s notice and receive an offer for help.
I recently had an experience where several people referred me to a gentleman who runs a large non-profit. He & I traded emails one afternoon and scheduled coffee for the next morning. I didn’t know I would be meeting him for coffee, but I cam prepared with my 30 second speech as to what I do and we were able to connect on a number of needs we both had. Being able to articulately explain the position my business is in and the help I need, as well as the help I can provide, allows me to make the most out of these chance encounters.
8. Respond to People When They Ask for Help
When someone asks for help and I have the time and resources to provide it, I do. There have been a number of times where I have been able to help people and it has resulted in business or new opportunities to network with people. I’m not advocating giving away your help – when I respond, it is usually for consulting help and there is a price involved. However, I frequently will work with people to understand their specific situation and make the project fit for both of us. Being responsive has produced a lot of business opportunities.
What secrets do you have for GREAT business networking?
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