Every business owner needs a little help sometimes so we have compiled this list of our networking tips to grow your business. Becoming a master networker takes a fair amount of time and practice but once you learn the tricks, you will be able to expand your social circles, find new investors for projects and meet potential new customers and clients. To help you meet the right people and take your business to another level, here are our top twelve networking tips.
1. Identify Your Networking Goals
Before you go into any networking situation, whether that be attending an industry event or joining a Facebook group, it is crucial to decide what you want to get out of it. Do you want to find new customers or meet potential investors? Are you looking to expand your social circle or make friends in your industry?
Once you know what you want, it will be easier to identify the right people to talk to at each event. Try making a list of five people that you would like to meet at every event and you will be able to use your time more effectively.
Once you get to the event, you may find that your goals change because you meet an unexpected person or your conversation with someone goes further than you expected. Networking is a lot about being flexible and going with the flow so don’t be too worried if your goals change slightly. Stay open-minded at all times and you will be able to meet some fantastic contacts.
2. Practice Your Networking “Elevator Pitch”
Networking can be a lot of fun and many of the best networkers are able to smoothly introduce themselves and their businesses without any pre-planning. However, for most people, it is worth having a 30-second introduction ready that summarises who you are and what you do. This is known as an elevator pitch and it can be the difference between getting someone’s attention or not. Make sure your pitch is concise, interesting and most importantly, relevant to the person you are talking to.
The best way to practice your elevator pitch is by delivering it in front of a mirror or recording yourself so that you can see how well it comes across. Being able to whip out your elevator pitch whenever you need it will help to relieve some of the pressure of networking and help you to overcome any shyness. It should include who you are, what kind of business you are in and why the person you are talking to should be interested.
It is often worth having a few different versions of your pitch ready because each situation calls for something slightly different. For example, if you meet someone at an event who works in marketing then they may benefit more from knowing about the digital side of your business than if they worked in finance. Just remember that it is better to have bullet points in your head rather than a complete script because your pitch will sound more natural.
3. Pay Attention to Your Image
Sometimes, the old sayings are the best sayings, and “dress to impress” is still as important as ever when it comes to business networking. You need to portray an image of success if you want people to take you seriously. This means dressing appropriately for the occasion, being well-groomed and carrying yourself with confidence.
As well as looking good on the outside, your behaviour should also be professional at all times. This means being polite and considerate towards others whilst behaving confidently when chatting to people about yourself and your business. Be careful about which topics are appropriate to discuss and try not to drink too much if there is alcohol at the event. While a few drinks may help to loosen your tongue and help you to overcome any nerves, drinking excessively will not reflect well on you or your business.
4. Put Yourself Out There
For shy or naturally quiet people, networking can be a very intimidating experience but the more you practise, the easier it will become. To get yourself out there and to help ease your nerves, try attending events that are not very formal or where everyone is expected to mingle with each other.
You can also arrange your own networking events so that you have more control over who will be in attendance and the circumstances of the meeting. For example, if you want to meet people from an industry-related Facebook group then you can organise a gathering of like-minded individuals and send invitations by private message rather than just posting on the group’s wall.
5. Seek Introductions
One of the easiest ways to make useful new contacts is to ask mutual friends or business partners to introduce you. If one of your contacts knows somebody who you want to meet or who you believe could benefit your business, don’t hesitate to ask them for an introduction. The person is more likely to agree to meet you or respond to your messages if you have a common connection who has recommended them you to them.
This doesn’t mean that you should pester your friends or acquaintances for an introduction. Simply explain that you are interested in meeting the person and how they could help you grow your business and you will be amazed at how often people agree to introduce you.
Just remember that you don’t want to create a bad impression, especially when someone else has introduced you. Make sure you take the time to research the person beforehand and prepare some questions so that you can make the most of the introduction.
6. Introduce Connections to Each Other
If you want people to accommodate your introduction requests it is only right that you reciprocate. This doesn’t just mean introducing contacts who ask, it also means taking the initiative to introduce people you think could help each other without any request. If that introduction ends up being beneficial, those contacts will remember that you brought them together and will be more likely to help you in the future.
This is also a great way to expand your own network because once people know that you are willing to introduce them, they will be more likely to think of you when looking for advice or business opportunities outside their circle. Being known as someone who helps others to succeed is a great way to build your reputation and, in turn, grow your business.
7. Utilise Social Media
Social media is one of the most powerful tools when it comes to networking and a strong social media game can transform your business opportunities in no time. There are various social media platforms that you can use to network including major platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn and more niche platforms for specific industries.
There are also social media platforms that cater specifically to business networking such as BNI and Viadeo. These can be a great way to connect with other businesses in your industry and to develop strong relationships that could lead to future opportunities.
When using social media for networking, make sure that you are active and engaged. Reply to people’s comments, post interesting articles and share relevant news stories. The more involved you are, the more likely people will be to want to connect with you.
8. Practice Your Listening Skills
One of the most important things you can do when networking is to listen carefully without interrupting other people. When you ask questions or make positive statements about what somebody has said it will show that you are paying attention and are genuinely interested in them rather than just looking for an opportunity to talk about yourself. It also shows that you value their opinion which is a good way to establish yourself as an equal and not just someone looking for something from them.
In many cases, networking is about finding mutual connections or people who have the same interests so it is important that you don’t come across as self-centred or try too hard to impress your contacts by boasting about your business or name-dropping. Instead, come across as a likeable person who is interested in what other people have to say. This will make them more likely to want to do business with you and form an ongoing relationship that can benefit your company for years to come.