5 Top Small Business Networking Tips!
Here are 5 tips to ensure that networking becomes an important part in promoting your small business.
1. What is networking?
For any small business networking should be an essential part of your business. My 14 years as a practising solicitor provided me with a network which has been especially invaluable since forming Samson Consulting. Essentially networking is getting out of your office and mixing with people from your same sector, potential referral sources, and any other occasions where you meet new contacts. It should not be confined to thinking that networking only relates to business networking groups although these can be an excellent source.
2. Reasons You Should Network!
There are many reasons that you should network, not just to generate new business. Here are some of the reasons to network:
o Share ideas (see what is working for other people in different business sectors – can you apply this to your business?)
o Get out of your office (running a small business from home or in an office with a few other staff can be lonely. You need to get out of your office to think about your business in a different way. Your best ideas will rarely happen when you are chained to your desk.
o Practise your sales skills on non core targets (before you present to potential clients).
o To win new business (last but often seen as the most important reason).
3. Networking targets? You can only find out if something works by measuring it. What is your networking target? Do you want to meet three new business owners to share ideas or mastermind with or do you want 3 new leads per month? You have to have a goal to score (Sir Alan Sugar) so you must know what you are trying to achieve with your networking.
4. What To Say Or Not To Say?
Networking is essentially a sales and marketing tool. Two of the most important rules of sales are:
o Prospect (i.e. get out there and meet people); and
These are simple rules, yet if they are employed for networking events they will guarantee results.
5. Long Term Gain. We have all been to networking events where we are approached by someone who interrupts our conversation, jumps in with his or her business card, shouts about how brilliant they are and then throws themselves at the next unsuspecting group of people. This is one way to guarantee you will not succeed with your networking approach. The only way you will ever really prosper through networking is to build long term relationships and show a genuine interest in the people you talk to. In the last two years I have brokered deals putting several contacts on my network in touch with each other leading to a benefit for everyone involved. One of these contacts I first made over 8 years ago.
Far too many small business owners run around talking about how great their business is and what you can do for them. These people may have short term success but that is all. You need to build your business for the long term, so show genuine interest in people that you talk to, it makes it far more likely that they will go out of their way to help you.
6. Where To Go?
A quick search will reveal many networking opportunities. Ask your friends in business, see what they recommend too. There are many good opportunities to go networking. Test one this month.