With a name like Social Cindy, you would think I am a natural at networking, and you would be mostly right. I LOVE meeting people organically. What do I mean by that? I LOVE to say hi to people, to chat with them, and answer their questions.
When I still had a dog, I knew every other dog owner within a 5 mile radius. I would become to go to person for referrals because people trusted me and we were just chatting, friend to friend. I love that. I think I may have already mentioned this.
Here is what I know about networking meetings. I attend them, I mix and mingle, and I don’t go expecting to come away with a lead. Most of the business owner who are there attend them because they need more business. Although I wouldn’t mind getting a new piece of business, I don’t attend those meetings to simply recruit business, I attend because I want to get to know more people and because it’s a chance to have lunch with some really great people I might not see otherwise.
Even so, for some people, the idea of entering a room of strangers and making small talk is up there with having a root canal or spending a weekend with the in-laws. But done correctly it is an ideal way to broaden their network of potential customers.
Still, if you want people to know about your business, you need to get out and meet them. Before you make the attempt just know this. Rule number one, relax, enjoy and don’t get too hung up on the whole making a sale idea. Instead prepare for a great experience by following a few simple tips.
Research the various networking events in your area:
1. Make sure you’re going to an event that’s likely to help your business in some way. Attending on a regular basis is the best option, in order to create an ongoing impression. Keep an eye out for any major industry trade events that may offer free entrance for the day without having to pay for a full conference entry.
2. Create a compelling “elevator pitch”
Be prepared to tell someone what your business does and why it matters in 30 seconds or less. Even better? Figure out a 10-second overview that makes someone want to ask more about it. Know your business “unique selling point,” own it, and be prepared to explain it again and again.
3. Create a lasting connection
First, remember it’s not a sales pitch or a sales event. This is about creating connections with other small business leaders and the larger business ecosystem and network.
4. Don’t be afraid of your competition
If you have a good product, your are honest, and you charge a fair price, then be proud, shake hands with your competition and know there’s usually a market for what you both have to offer. Most people make a purchasing decision based upon whether or not they like the person they are considering hiring or buying from, not on just the product or service alone. Some people are going to like you better, and some are not.
That said, if you feel that you’ve had a great conversation, never hesitate to drop that person a quick, professional email and if they indicated interest, do end that note with a call to action – whether that’s a visit to your website, a trial of a product, or even an interesting article in the press about a topic you discussed.
Finally, remember that each and every small business networking event offers a great opportunity to actually meet, face-to-face, those people who may become useful in one way or another to your business. It’s a great way to put a face to a business and build the like, know and trust factor.
Now get out there and mingle!