As a small business owner, connections with potential customers and other people in the business community are critical. Not only can better connections mean more sales, but it can also mean greater opportunities being presented.
However, if you want more connections, you need to network – and the prospect of networking is something that can turn even the most confident individual into a nervous wreck.
But, with the help of networking guru Gordon Jenkins – aka The Visible Guy – forget everything you think you know about networking and prepare to reframe it. Here’s nine tips to network like a boss – on your own terms:
1. Call someone up
How many names do you have in your phone? Why not just call someone and ask, ‘How are you doing?’ They will probably say, ‘Why are you asking?’
“Every day I ring up someone and ask how they are, you are in my phone for a reason. It doesn’t have to be a mental health day to ask my network if I can support them. I know it sounds weird, but it restarts conversations brilliantly… just give it a go,” says Jenkins.
2. Attend conferences of your targets
Head along to conferences where your target connections will be and listen with your eyes as much as your ears. Intrigue the delegates, never sell to them. You are attending to learn more about them – if they want to chat about what you do, why not arrange a catch up after the conference.
It’s a great idea to have an automated calendar app, such as Calendly, so you can send them a link directly to your calendar to immediately schedule a mutually convenient time.
3. Know the key dates
Keep a note of birthdays and anniversaries of your clients and customers. Don’t just send them an email, though – take the time to hand-write a card. In a competitive business world, you need to stand out not based on your knowledge but on the fact you care. You will be amazed at the difference a small thought like this can make.
4. Send a thank you after events
Similarly, a handwritten card after an event works wonders. It stands out so much more than an email.
5. Write as an expert
Become the ‘go-to’ person in your industry by writing thought leadership content demonstrating your expertise. Be proud of who you are – but remember, there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Always give something to the audience to take away and remember – this isn’t the place to sell.
6. Be memorable
When you meet someone new, or you’re in conversation with someone, ask “What made you smile this week?” This enables them to talk about themselves and is so much more engaging than the elevator pitch.
7. Create your own networking event
Don’t want to go to a forced networking event? Create one of your own instead! Invite your clients, and invite them to bring someone interesting, too.
8. Do something meaningful
Support a charity or program in the local community, and that doesn’t necessarily mean raising money or doing fun runs. Think about joining an employment program, or being on a board or committee for a local charity. It builds up a fantastic rapport with the community and gets you noticed in a very relevant way.
9. Get involved in a hackathon/thinkathon/editathon
These events are fantastic at bringing the business community together to solve a common purpose, whether it’s for business or not-for-profit.
There you go, that’s nine tried and tested tips to supercharge your small business networking skills. Now it’s time to put them into practice!
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