Networking is a buzz word that we all hear all of the time. Unfortunately for many business owners it evokes powerful images of standing around a room with a lot of people that you don’t know, feeling equally as awkward and unsure as you do. Networking is really an excellent way to build a business. It’s cheap, it’s instant and it doesn’t require a lot of exceptional skills.
Networking is about communication. Feeling awkward when meeting new people can be challenging but there are many simple techniques that make it easier. I learned a lot of my communication skills from a book I read at least once a year – “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. The title sounds terribly manipulative but it really isn’t. It is a book about communicating and the lessons learned in those pages can be used time and time again, every day of the week. The end result will be that you will become a better communicator and you will find networking much easier.
The next part of the process is to go to a networking function with a clear goal. Your aim is to meet people who might be potential customers or who might be able to refer business to you. Prepare a few questions in your mind ahead of time, think about how you will introduce yourself and what you sell. If you meet someone who could become a customer or business associate how will you arrange to follow up? How will you end the conversation so that you can move on and meet other people without offending the person you are talking to? I know some entrepreneurial types who sit down and write a networking plan before they go the function – and they get excellent results. It is a business opportunity not a social event and they treat it as such.
Networking is here to stay. The better you are at it the more business you can attract. Go into any networking situation with an open mind and with a plan of attack.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TODAY? There are two things you can do today. The first is to buy a copy of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. It will give you some excellent ideas on dealing with people and if you apply them your networking will become much easier. The next thing you can do right now is to plan your next networking opportunity. Think about how you will introduce yourself, what questions will you ask the people you meet, how will you excuse yourself when it is time to move on and meet someone else? By simply being prepared you will find that networking can change from a chore to an enjoyable and rewarding experience.