Business Networking Tips Part 1: 10 Tips to Beat the Fear
Opportunity. As a business owner, you’ll know that the working world is full of it, and a lot of it can be found at networking events. From pitching your company and making important contacts to gaining industry insights and business advice, these events are powerhouses of possibility for businesses big and small.
In this article, we’ll reveal 10 networking tips that will help you build your contacts, improve your networking skills and grow your business. Business cards at the ready.
1. Build a Rapport
Avoid interrupting conversations simply to pitch your business and walk away. Think of how you would behave at any other get-together. Be friendly and chatty, and lay down some conversational foundations before jumping in with your pitch. Speaking of which…
2. Ask Open Questions
When networking, try to allow the other person to speak more than you. Demonstrate genuine interest and learn as much as you can about them and their business – without the conversation turning into an interview! Not only will this make a great impression, but it’ll help you when it comes to following up (more on that later). Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What brought you to this event?
- How did you get into your line of work?
- What do you love most about your job?
Try to be clued up on current events too, should the conversation end up being a little more general.
3. Prepare an Elevator Pitch
You know your business inside out, so make sure you’re ready to put what you do into words at the drop of a hat. Having an ‘elevator pitch’ prepared is useful in several situations, from unexpectedly bumping into potential clients in the pub to being faced with a roomful of them at an organised event. Here are some tips:
- Summarise what you or your company do. Seems obvious, but it can be hard to know where to start if this isn’t something you’ve previously put into a few words.
- Consider what you want to achieve with your pitch. Would you rather build awareness of a great new product you’ve just released, or simply explain what makes your company stand out over others?
- Always engage your audience during an elevator pitch, rather than simply delivering a speech. Ask ‘yes or no’ questions relevant to what you do; this way, you remain in control of the conversation, but the listener is stimulated.
4. Take Notes
Once the conversation is over, step aside for a moment and make a note on the business card you’ve just been handed of anything you may have promised (e.g., a lunch meeting), as well as what that person does (if it’s not already clear from the card). Include any interesting facts about them too, to remind you when you next meet up. Trust us, these notes will really come in handy when you’ve built up a stash of cards.
5. Arrive Early
If you prefer small groups to large crowds, consider arriving at your networking event early when there may be fewer people there. Take advantage of this time by starting the first conversations, breaking the ice, and leaving a great first impression.
6. Ask for Advice
It feels good when someone asks for and values your opinion. Asking others for advice can not only be a great way to open a conversation (in groups as well as one-to-ones), but it can be an ideal route to learning things about your industry from people in the know. It works both ways too, so if someone asks you for advice, oblige them.
7. Offer to Make Connections
When the conversation is flowing, you may find that you start drawing connections between your new contact and people already in your network – whether it's people you currently work with, or people you’ve worked with in the past. Offer to introduce contacts if it seems appropriate. Being generous in this way is part of what networking is all about.
8. Know When to Dish Out Business Cards
You know how annoying email spam is? Well, business card spam is similar. Never hand someone a card if you’ve not built some conversational groundwork first (unless they specifically ask for one).
9. Think Quality Over Quantity
Your contacts should be diverse and relevant. Engage in a few meaningful conversations that both participants will remember, rather than lots of short, forgettable intros. Networking isn’t a competition, so don’t set goals based on how many people you should speak to, but rather on how many genuinely useful connections you make.
10. Follow Up
If you meet someone you’d like to talk business with, try to make contact within 48 hours of the initial meeting. If you listened carefully and took some notes, you should find it easy enough to personalise your message. For example, try adding a link to an article you think your contact may find useful, or a note about a common interest. If they reply, keep on building that rapport by arranging to meet for a coffee.
One last bit of networking advice? Think of what you can offer, rather than what you’ll gain. Now get out there, perfect your handshake, and prepare to shine.
More Small Business Guide
Think of networking events not as one-off sales opportunities but as the foundations for new connections.
When meeting business contacts in casual settings, stay alert to subtleties that can lead to opportunities.