If you want to build a powerful business network full of profitable partnerships, it is likely easier than you think! Now if you are reading this and thinking, “No way! I am too shy, and I absolutely despise networking events…” it is possible for you, too! (If you are very shy and the idea of networking makes you sick to your stomach, Mathew Pollard’s book, The Introverts Edge, is a great book to read!) In order to build a powerful network, you just need to make time! Then, with a little planning and organization, you will be on your way! Below, you will find our favorite tips to building the right network for you.
But before we dive in, we want to stress the importance of having a well-defined target audience in place before you start networking. This will help you to find the right people and the right events/opportunities! It will also help you to communicate WHAT you do, and for whom!
Pro tip: When networking, we strongly urge you to go into a networking event searching for connections rather than just leads. Building strong business relationships will often turn into business, whether the new contact is buying directly from you or sends you a referral. But this only happens if you are genuine and can build an actual relationship. Otherwise, it can backfire and people might think you are slimy… So, go in with an open mind!
1) Do Your Homework
Before attending a networking event, do some research on the event and who will be attending. If you know the people you’re meeting before, you’ll know how to better make a connection with them. You can figure out how to present yourself in the best light.
Also, try to find networking opportunities where you will be the only person representing your type of business in the room. For example, if you are a bookkeeper, going to a networking group for accountants will only generate relationships between people that do the exact same type of work. These contacts are likely not going to need your business nor would they send referrals (because they do the same work!). However, if you (as an accountant) go to a networking event for top freelance graphic designers, you may have better luck making great connections that could turn into business or help generate referrals.
2) Know Your Unique Value
How well do you understand your unique strengths? Spend some time figuring out the unique value you offer so you can communicate this when you meet people. Look at your past successes and areas of expertise. Think about the ways that you get results for others.
Once you have really narrowed down your unique value, think of success stories!! (More on stories below). This will help you showcase what you do while focussing on a story instead of rattling off bullet points.
3) Emphasize the Benefits You Offer
This is the time to tell your story! You have already explained what you do, now it is time to emphasize how you get results! This will showcase how beneficial it is for a company to know YOU. Just make sure your story includes your key benefits.
4) Get Organized
You’ll meet a great number of new people and it might be hard to keep them all straight. Take notes at the event on your phone and when you get back to the office, create an Excel file full of information on who you meet and how you can approach them. Remember, you will not sell to everyone, so the notes should include both the type of connection you can foster and/or the type of business that y’all can do!
5) Build Trust and Report with More Stories
Building trust and rapport is so important when you want to build a powerful network! And that will happen through stories, even the stories that are not directly related to business. Have a few go-to stories you can bring up to help make you more relatable!
6) Get Out There and Meet People
Constantly seek out opportunities to network and attend events regularly. Fill your schedule with professional networking events. Always think about building your network wherever you are, whether at an event or just at the store.
Now, we know this one sounds intimidating and exhausting! But take solace in knowing you will not have to be super busy forever! But start strong, and just be sure to stir the pot every so often!
7) Overcome Your Nerves
It’s okay to be nervous. Attending networking events takes some getting used to. Just like getting on stage and performing, you’ll be nervous at first, but you’ll gradually get used to it. Create a ritual where you can warm up before the event and get into a social mood, so you’re pumped up to go meet people.
8) Have Fun
When you’re enjoying yourself, others will enjoy interacting with you. Think of it as a fun social outing where you get to indulge in a hobby (your business) alongside similar people. This will motivate you to get out there and network! Plus your enthusiasm will be infectious!
As a business owner, networking is key! Just know, it gets easier with time — but it will take time! Implement some or all of these tips. If one does not work particularly well for you, alter it! The more comfortable you are, the better the outcome.