Social networking sites, particularly LinkedIn, are a good way to find business contacts in your city or industry that you wouldn’t meet otherwise. Using social media consistently can keep your business in front of potential buyers or even a future business partner.
However, we are all human, and in-person networking still provides an experience that just can’t be replicated online.
Are you chained to your desk, tucked inside your office, and wondering why your businesses isn’t growing? Time to get out into the REAL WORLD.
Networking can be stressful, because not everyone has an easy time striking up a conversation with strangers to sell themselves. But good networking isn’t about the hard sell or mindless conversation. Networking is about forming a real connection with another person that your business can truly help. That connection can lead to new business or meaningful referrals.
This Entrepreneur Magazine article, Networking tips that really work, says getting to a networking event early can help you more easily find someone to engage in conversation. If you get there late, people will have already partnered up, making harder to talk to others.
Additionally, you stay away from the sales pitch, the article says:
Remember, networking is all about relationship building. Keep your exchange fun, light and informal – you don’t need to do the hard sell within minutes of meeting a person. The idea is to get the conversation started. People are more apt to do business with – or partner with – people whose company they enjoy.
If a potential customer does ask you about your product or service, be ready with an easy description of your company. Before the event, create a mental list of recent accomplishments, such as a new client you’ve landed or project you’ve completed. That way, you can easily pull an item off that list and into the conversation.
A Startup Nation blog, Networking: Stop Hiding Behind Your Computer, reminds small business owners that networking doesn’t end at an event. You must allow FOLLOW UP with potential leads.
It’s often said that networking is where the conversation begins, not ends. If you’ve had a great exchange, ask your conversation partner the best way to stay in touch. Some people like email or phone; others prefer social networks like LinkedIn. Get in touch within 48 hours of the event to show you’re interested and available, and reference something you discussed, so your contact remembers you.
Now get out there and start networking!