Are you looking to grow your business by taking on new clients or collaborating with new joint venture partners? One of the best ways to find new business is by in-person networking, getting out there and meeting people. For shy or inexperienced folks, this can be daunting. Here are some helpful tips for developing your networking skills.
1. Determine who would be your ideal client or joint venture partner. You need to know who would be the best fit for you as a client or as a joint venture partner. What is the profile of the person who could most benefit from what you have to offer? And what are the businesses that have similar ideal clients to yours but offer complementary services or products to those you offer?
2. Create a target list of people to contact. Once you know your ideal client and joint venture partner profiles, make a list. The list can include family, friends and neighbors; colleagues; professors and alumni from schools you’ve attended; vendors and salespeople; members of organizations you belong to or volunteer with; other professionals (e.g., accountants, doctors, real estate agents, hair stylists); and bloggers and members of online groups and communities. And of course, if you’re networking now, include people from those groups.
Once you have your list, set goals for making contacts. Plan to call or email three people a week and to meet one person a week, for example.
3. Develop a 30-second “elevator speech,” a concise statement about who you help, how you can help them, and what makes you unique. Have it ready and use it at every opportunity.
4. Have a business card made and carry it with you at all times. Companies like GotPrint (www.gotprint.com) provide professional-looking business cards for discounted prices. The card should include all of your contact information, job title or objective, and even some highlights from your “elevator speech” or perhaps your tagline.
5. Attend networking events that your ideal clients or joint venture partners would attend. Networking events may include any meeting or forum held by professional associations, alumni groups, user groups, civic organizations, or social groups. Meetup.com is a great place to look for local networking groups to join. When attending an event, try to obtain a list of attendees in advance or just before you walk in the door.
Determine ahead of time what your desired outcome will be to accomplish at the meeting, including how many people you want to meet; a reasonable goal might be five people. Dress appropriately (usually business casual) and arrive early. Have pens and business cards ready. Ask others for their cards and follow up with a handwritten note. To overcome shyness, prepare a list of questions in advance.
6. Remember that networking is a two-way street. Maintain a mindset of being a resource to others. Have a goal of finding out how you can help fellow business people whenever you can, not what you can sell to them. Try to listen to what others have to say more than you talk about yourself. This will help establish a relationship of trust, which in turn will build your network.
7. Always maintain a networking frame of mind. Everywhere you go, everyone you meet could present a networking opportunity. Always have your card and your 30-second elevator speech ready, and take every chance you get to let people know who you are and why you’re special.
Meeting new people and continuously expanding your contact base can help you grow your business. At any moment, you may meet the right person to change the course of your business. Or they may know the right person! I chose the graphic I used for this blog because it depicts how one person you’re connected to is connected to many other people who can make referrals.
What ways do you network? Please write a comment and let me know!