Many B2B enterprises work under the assumption that anyone who would benefit from their products already knows who they are. However, things are changing. Even in the medical and industrial fields, competition is diversifying faster than ever. Small business owners who want to make a big impact need to spend time networking.
Mention networking, however, and many people will cringe. You might think of canned introductions and stilted conversations that lead nowhere. How can you leave those worries behind and unlock the real power behind networking?
Let’s look at some important tips:
1 Start With a Great First Impression
Before you go into any networking event, start by checking in with yourself and figuring out what your goals are. Are you here to learn about the latest industry trends? Make connections? Introduce your products and services to prospects? No matter what the case, you’ll be more effective if you go into it knowing what you want to get out of it!
2 Listen Actively to Those Around You
The reason networking has such a bad rap might just be because of the idea that you’ll end up across the table from someone who just won’t stop talking – or you’ll be the bore yourself. Even if you end up chatting with someone who can’t help you in any obvious way, listen openly and ask questions. You never know what you might learn.
3 Tap Your Community
You don’t have to go to special events to look for prime business connections. Odds are good you have a local entrepreneur group in your community. Look at general business organizations like your local chamber of commerce, Toastmasters, and Rotary International to get a start. Also consider charitable organizations where you can volunteer or sponsor events.
4 Extend Your Reach Online
There are many forums and networks where you can meet like-minded business leaders online. LinkedIn, for example, gives you tremendous access to industry colleagues in your area. However, it’s a good idea to go beyond big social networks and dig deeper into the smaller, industry specific sites where people might be more forthcoming about their “secrets to success.”
5 Make Time to Follow Up
Meeting people is important, but developing that successful first meeting into an effective long-term relationship is what really delivers return on your investment. Soon after making a new connection, be sure to meet up again. Come equipped with some research – a clearer idea of your connection’s challenges and how you might be able to help or collaborate.
Knowing the right people can make a big bottom line difference. It doesn’t have to happen by chance: Networking is a skill. Exercise it and you can end up with powerful social capital.