Network Your Small Business
Some of MANY tips to get you started
Business networking is a term often used but sometimes not truly understood and has great benefit for any business when done properly. The authors of The Virtual Handshake note that “People who know how to leverage their networks are called successful. People who just know a lot of people are called socialites.” Imagine the benefit of having many people who understand your business and are willing to recommend your services. Word-of-mouth can be a very powerful tool that can achieve this but it doesn’t just happen by knowing lots of people. Below are a few (of many) tips about how you and your business could begin to approach business networking.
Successful networking is primarily about building relationships and NOT focused on just making a sale. Nurturing relationships and building trust is integral to successful business. Great networkers understand that it is ‘givers that gain’ and an attitude of ‘helping others’ that will deliver results in the longer term.
Before you can successfully network you need to know your business. You should be able to clearly articulate the key aspects of your business in under a minute. The best way to perfect this is practice! You never know when or where you will be when asked ‘what do you do?’ and having a prepared response means you won’t be kicking yourself later when you missed an opportunity. Every time you meet a new business person, it is an opportunity to educate them about your business AND equally a great opportunity to learn about their business. When meeting new people think about introductions you can make or ways that you can help others in business, but be careful to always be genuine and follow through on any commitments you make otherwise you will detract from your efforts to build trust.
Part of knowing your business is knowing what a good customer or client looks like to you. Not only so that you can identify these people, but so that you can educate others about what to look for that would help you. Don’t miss the opportunity to help direct people in ways that they can help you. For example, a real estate agents best customer might not be someone looking to buy a house, but rather someone looking to sell. If you are not clear about what a great customer or client looks like, then you can leave it to chance that the person you are speaking to might want to help but not send you the business that you really want.
You probably already know lots of people. Do they know what you do and what an ideal customer looks like for you? This can be a great place to start your networking.
Beware of some common mistakes. When meeting a new person, don’t focus on the immediate ‘fit’ of this person to your service or product. Too often people will shut-down a conversation with a new person because you believe them to not require your service or product. They might not need your business, but may recommend you to someone who does. Remember that building relationships takes time and trust is earned. All relationships are important when you are in business. Be sure to also follow up on any commitments you may have made. If you said you would put them in touch with someone, be sure to do that.
Here at Negotiis, we actively involve ourselves in business networking in a variety of ways. Our most significant networking is through participation in our local chapter of BNI (Business Networking International). BNI is a concerted effort at business networking and building word-of-mouth recommendations for your business. Small business can be a lonely place and each week our chapter join together to celebrate eachothers success, learn more about eachothers businesses and help motivate and inspire our colleagues.
Below is a short introduction to BNI and also an overview as to some of the aspects to consider about business networking.
Don’t let the concept of business networking overwhelm. Get to know your business and then get out and educate people about your business. Start in an environment you feel comfortable to build your confidence. Maybe even online where there are many ways to communicate about your business. Find ways that you can assist others with their business. Always carry your business card and follow up on conversations when possible. Above all, be positive, warm and welcoming!