One of the most important aspects of being a small business owner is getting the word out about your business. Business networking is one of the best ways to get people to take notice of your efforts and potentially gain new clients and/or customers. Not only will expanding your contacts create new opportunities for your business, but it also promotes career advancement and personal growth.
In-person business networking includes attending professional and social events. I can assure you that things will likely feel unnatural if you are not used to introducing yourself to a room full of strangers. That being said, the more you attend these types of networking events, the more comfortable you will become with speaking to others and making those introductions.
Here are a few things you can do to make the most out of your business networking efforts.
Show people that you are curious about who they are and what they do. Most people enjoy the opportunity to speak about who they are and tell others about their own accomplishments. If you manage to make others feel special, they will see you in a positive light.
When speaking and listening to others, make sure to make eye contact with the other person rather than look around the room. Making eye contact with the other person tells them that you are listening and interested in what they are saying.
Try not to talk about your business in a way that makes it seem like you’re trying to sell a product or service. For example, if you own and operate a car rental service don’t tell people: “I work at so-and-so car rentals and we offer the most affordable car rental service in the region. Here's my business card. You should give us a call if you ever need to rent a vehicle!”. If someone asks you what you do, give them a short description and only elaborate if they show interest in what you're saying.
Give before you receive. If someone is looking for help, offer to lend them a hand or refer them to someone you know could help. Whether it is volunteering your time for a charity event someone is organizing or referring to someone with neck pain to a good massage therapist, people really appreciate any help offered. If you can be helpful to others, you can usually expect to be helped in return.
If you find yourself having an engaging conversation with another person make sure to exchange contact information with them. This is where carrying a few business cards with you is useful. Within a couple of days of your initial encounter, you can always follow up with your new contact. This shows that you are interested in having a larger discussion.
Take your in-person skills online. Reach out to people on LinkedIn, Instagram, or wherever makes the most sense for your business. Set up virtual coffee meetings with potential new contacts. Grown your online network by sharing relevant content on your social media platforms as well.