"Your ability to learn faster than your competition is your only sustainable competitive advantage. "
- Arie de Gues
Networking is important for all business owners, especially small business owners because it provides opportunities to generate new business and leads, meet VIP clients, approach investors, and get important advice and mentorship.
When you go into a networking scenario knowing what you want to get out of it, you’ll be more likely to come away satisfied and feel like doing it again next time. Not sure what your goals are? Here are some networking tips that can help your business:
Have a Networking Strategy
For many small business owners, networking can be enjoyable. But, building your business network is not all fun and games. Approach your networking with a strategy that will help you reach your goals.
When creating a plan, figure out why you want to network. Are you trying to gain new contacts? Maybe you want to work on career development and learn from business advisers in your industry. You could network to become a thought leader and position yourself as an expert. Or, you might try to be a better leader and motivate your team.
Whatever the reason for networking, set goals to aim for and estimate the number of contacts you will need. Then, identify the kinds of people you need to meet. Review your networking efforts to see what strategies worked best.
Be a good listener
When it comes to networking, you need to listen to what other people are saying. Peers and potential clients can offer valuable insights that will help you make better business decisions. Show that you’re interested in conversations, and be a good listener.
During networking events, try to listen more than speak. Also, ask open-ended questions rather than ones that require “yes” or “no” answers. After each conversation, make notes about what you talked about.
Create lasting impressions
Good first impressions are an important part of networking—so are good second impressions, and third impressions, and so on. Whether you’re meeting someone for the first time or talking to someone you’ve known for 15 years, be courteous and professional.
You also should be personable when you meeting with your connections. Even though you’re in a business setting, don’t be afraid to be warm and engaging; tell a personal story when it’s relevant. Your network should be built on people you want to work with and people who want to work with you.
Have an online presence
No matter the size of your business, it’s crucial to have a presence on the internet. Use online channels to network with potential and existing customers, as well as other business owners.