If you want to run a successful small business, networking is an essential part of the process. However, many people dread walking into a room and introducing themselves to total strangers.
Most people attend business networking events and only talk to the people they already know. If this is what you do, then what’s the point of attending networking events? If you’re not actively seeking new people to meet and discuss business with them, why go?
You should view networking events as an opportunity to make new contacts, uncover essentials about the person and their business, create business relationships, and even possibly, make new friends. When Teresa Ray, owner of The Payroll Department in Brownsburg, IN, goes to networking events, she attends them with this purpose.
Getting to know other entrepreneurs and employers in your area gives you resources for products, services and support in the community when you need it. Also, engaging with other small business owners is continual professional development. When you have a question about employees, payroll or taxes, you have mentors and peers to ask.
If you struggle with meeting new people at events, Teresa suggests you set an easy minimum goal to talk with at least three new people at each event you attend. Or, be bold and go for six new people!
Just be sure that you don’t waste your time and networking dollars standing around talking with your friends when there are lots of potential prospects in the networking room. You will grow your network exponentially if you meet new people at every event.
If you have scheduled a one-on-one networking meeting, you can make the most of it with a little planning and preparation. Here are some strategies to get you started.
- Check LinkedIn and the person’s company website to learn more about the person and their company prior to meeting with them. Look at their photo so you know who you’re meeting with.
- Draft a list of questions to ask at your meeting to help you gain more insight into the person and their company. Find out what issues they face. For instance, an entrepreneur lacking an HR department might be struggling with payroll or payroll taxes. Teresa could offer advice, resources or payroll services that could solve their problem.
- Don’t arrive at the designated location and hide in a remote corner of the room. Position yourself by the door and be ready to greet them with a smile.
- Be engaged in the conversation. But don’t highjack it! Remember to listen, too.
- Be courteous and show the person that you’re genuinely interested in what they’re saying about themselves, their workplace and business.
- Maintain good eye contact, but don’t make it a stare-down.
- Smile throughout your meeting. You’ll put yourself and the other person at ease.
- Ask the person the best way to stay in touch. Follow up with a thank you phone call, note or email to show you’re interested. Reference something you discussed, so the person remembers you.
Above all, just remember, to be yourself, believe in yourself and share your passion to create a memorable first impression.
– Ariane of The Payroll Department Blog Team