As an entrepreneur starting out or trying to grow your business your personal network is critical. It’s not only where you get information, it also helps you get your first customers, develop your business and provide a continuous source of new customers. Often networking is a great way to meet like minded people who energize and inspire you.
As a business owner, you need to be consistently networking – it’s an essential skill. Networking opens a world of opportunities for you to meet business partners, find new markets for your products and services, supplies, staff or even help you take your company global.
When you can sell through your network, it is an easier path to sales, it makes it a warm lead-in to a sales opportunity. Everything you do in your life is with with people and through people – this is a skill that can be learned and it has a direct impact on the success of your business and your life. Networking is what builds word of mouth referrals.
So how do you get started?
Start by setting your intention and putting your mindset in gear for making new friends! Then research local organizations in your area or look online for groups that your target audience can be in. I always recommend joining a few of these groups to learn and to share knowledge. Through showing up and giving value you become the go-to person that people think of when they need the services/products that you provide.
Attend 2 – 3 activities per week, more if you are just starting out. Have your value proposition (pitch) ready to share articulating what problem you solve for your target audience.
What if you are nervous?
You are not alone – many people feel shy or uncomfortable when meeting new people. A trick I use with success is to focus on who I am speaking to and engaging them in a conversation as opposed to worrying about what I need to say and share. By shifting your attention to others you draw them into a conversation and start opening a relationship. Have a list of questions that are not the normal boring questions to ask. Remember, networking is not for selling, it is for opening a relationship with people you don’t know. It’s important to leave a good impression as even if it’s someone you won’t do business with, you don’t know who in their network may need your services.
Another secret is to see how you can help those you are meeting with. What can you do to help them with any of their needs or to connect them with your network?
People like to buy from people they trust, like and know. Being consistent with your branding and showing up regularly builds your credibility and memorability. Follow up with people you meet through phone calls, snail mail or what works best for you. Find ways to stay in touch and connect your network with each other or people they need in their network. Keep notes on the people you meet that are memorable – it goes a long way to building strong relationships.
- Make a list of your network opportunities and evaluate which are the most relevant.
- Get ideas of how you can better assist and meet the needs of your existing network.
- Express your current needs to your network and ask for references to others that you need to meet now.
- Research local organizations below to network with
Local Networking Organizations to research:
Specific Networking Groups & Associations:
- Linkedin groups – post your events and offers to BACD’s group and search for other groups pertaining to your industry or networking groups
- Facebook groups – there are a plethora of local groups you can be part of. Show up and deliver value and the benefits will be there.
- Reddit groups – join subreddits in your niche or target market e.g. startup, personal finance, yoga etc.
- Eventbrite – do a search for events near you or in your area of interest