Are you networking-averse? Do you envision a room full of strangers with business cards and panic?
Fear not! Networking is a valuable small business skill all entrepreneurs should hone, but it doesn’t have to be terrifying. Here are five quick tips for pain-free networking:
1) Keep introductions and greetings simple
Don’t feel that you have to dazzle someone as soon as you open your mouth. Just smile, say hello, and introduce yourself. Sounds simple, but sometimes the most difficult part is just getting started. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself to be witty or mind-blowing – that can come later.
2) Network for others
Sometimes, the best networking you can do is on someone else’s behalf. Listen to your customers and other people you meet and do what you can to help them solve their problem or dilemma – even if it doesn’t have anything to do with your business. Even a small act of kindness stands out and people will remember you for it. And when they come across someone who can use your services, you’ll probably be the one they think of.
3) Fake it ’til you make it
Now, we don’t mean fabricate your sales numbers or pretend your one-person business is a global empire. Rather, act like you’re confident, happy, and having a good time at networking events. Smile and be approachable. Don’t stand with your arms folded, and try to make eye contact when speaking. Make the person you’re speaking with feel welcome, and soon you might find yourself having a good time.
4) Be curious
If you tell yourself that the goal of your networking is to make X number of sales, you’ll be putting unnecessary pressure on yourself, and you might even miss a critical opportunity to connect with someone. Instead, approach each person with curiosity. Who are they? What do they do? Why do they do it? Approaching marketing in this way will not only make your connections more genuine, but you might even find a new angle of connection.
5) Branch out
If you’re a photographer, would you network with a plumber? Or a dentist? Or an accountant? We say – of course! Even if you find yourself chatting with someone who doesn’t immediately jump out at you as a potential client or customer, keep chatting. You never know when that dentist will need photos for her website, or when that plumber’s cousin needs a wedding photographer.