20 Networking Tips for Entrepreneurs

20 Networking Tips for Entrepreneurs

Networking for entrepreneurs and small businesspeople often involves meeting new contacts and developing existing relationships. Generally, you will attend a purposefully organised networking event. Look for general networking opportunities in your local trading area, or one organised by your trade/market association. Here are some tips to get you organised so that you make the most of your networking opportunities.

  1. Research the networking event beforehand, and try to find out who will be attending. Visit their websites and try to get some insight into their businesses. Make notes.
  2. Have a wide network. Reach out to others and use every networking opportunity. Target contacts and find out where they meet for networking.
  3. Have an elevator pitch or business summary ready; this means be prepared with few focused sentences to explain in plain language what you do and why you are networking.
  4. Get there on time. Turning up early might give you chance to meet the organisers, and to meet other early-birds.
  5. Be efficient and realistic. Connect with others that are useful to you now, or will be in the future. You don’t have time to connect with everyone, so don’t work the entire room.
  6. Speak with others. Sounds obvious but you are there to network. Try to build rapport quickly. Have an opening question, such as Tell me about your business, explain to me how your business works for customers or describe how you get new customers. Prepare some before you arrive.
  7. Don’t be afraid to listen to other groups, and to join in. If you have something in common, then it is important that you begin the dialogue. Expect others to listen in to your discussion, and to join in too.
  8. Have goals, but keep them reasonable and don’t spread yourself too thinly. For examples, try to make 2 new contacts.
  9. Dress appropriately. If smart dress is required, then dress smartly. If you don’t dress smartly as part of your business’s ideology, then where what make you feel comfortable – within reason of course.
  10. Remember, just be yourself. You are the most important part of your business.
  11. Remember your business cards. Make notes on the cards themselves to remind yourself why you need to network that contact. Only hand out your card to people that will value it; if you have rapport, then ask for a business card from the contact, and expect them to do the same with you.
  12. Give a firm handshake and look the contact in the eye. Smile.
  13. Get your elevator pitch or business summary ready. However, try to not turn the discussion into a sales pitch. You are not selling, you are networking.
  14. Listen to your contact’s elevator pitch or business summary. Ask a question to show that you are engaged and that you understand. Try to be interested in the conversations. Be passionate about your own ideas. Try not to hijack somebody else’s conversation.
  15. Be willing to end the conversation politely. Thank the new contact, and explain that you’d like to meet a few more people during the event. They will understand because they are attending with similar goals.
  16. Perhaps you might be in a position to introduce other networkers to each other. You may form an informal mini-network.
  17. After the meeting or event, review your new contacts. Follow up contacts quickly. Add them to your LinkedIn profile, or add them to your database. Make relevant notes.
  18. Use social media to connect with relevant contacts. As with your business card, don’t try to work everyone. Be efficient and focused.
  19. Once you have connected, develop the relationship. For example, send them a sample; ask them for a meeting, or invite them to become a customer or a supplier.
  20. Why not organise your own networking event? Or, you could volunteer to support an event or networking opportunity organised by others.

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