networking for beginners

It’s all about connections

The old adage says, “it’s not what you know but who you know”.  Networking has been going ever since the dawn of man. We are social creatures and networking and connecting with each other is part of what makes us human. In the business world, especially if you are self-employed, or own a small business, networking can be an invaluable tool for generating new business and gaining products and services that will help your venture boom.
There are two main types of networking associated with business. There is face-to-face networking and social media networking.  This article focuses on face-to-face networking, as it can so often be overlooked but it is still a major player in business development.
The more people you meet and build connections with in a real world, real time environment, the more potential links you will have to clients and suppliers who you can gain mutual benefit from. Not only is networking key to gaining business but there are also many people out there who have been through what you have and have a wealth of experience in running successful enterprises. Networking with people that can offer you expertise and experience is invaluable.

What is Face-to-Face Networking?

Face-to-face networking in its most simple form is about getting out there and meeting with people, whether that be potential customers and clients, suppliers or other business professionals. Many people like to actually meet with the people they are working with and face-to-face communication allows you to interact on all levels in a way that is almost impossible through social networking. However successful networking is more than going to an event armed with business cards and your elevator pitch. It is about going to the right events and building genuine connections with people, so when the time is right they will want to do business with you, or help your company out. The old adage still holds true “people buy from people”.

Where do I do Face-to-Face Network?

There are many places where you can build your network of contacts on a face-to-face basis. Examples could include business forums, seminars and events, with many being industry specific. Other options can include joining a local social or business club where you can meet with other like-minded people, socialise and share ideas. Many of the older invitation only clubs are looking for new members and have many highly experienced retired individuals who would be happy to share their stories with you. Remember though, unless you are at a specific-networking event, don’t go overboard and dive straight in with a pitch. I can’t stress enough how important it is to build connections and not just sell your product. You will not last long in a club if you just use heavy handed tactics to get new business.

Top 5 Tips for Face-to-Face Networking

1. Find the right places to network:

Look online, or in industry journals, for specific networking events or forums, or find a club near you that you might be interested in joining that contains like-minded people.

2. Don’t dive in with the sales pitch:

Networking is an art. This doesn’t mean it has to be difficult, but just remember that you are not all about the sale. Let people get to know you and what you do, so they naturally decide that you are the sort of person they want to help or do business with. When the time is right to make your pitch you will know it.

3. It’s not all about you:

People like doing business with people they like. No one likes someone who is “all about me” and “what can be done for me”. People do like people who show a genuine interest in others. Ask your contacts about themselves, how their day is going, what things they enjoy doing, there is no need to get too personal, just show a genuine interest and if there is a connection they will mirror this back.

4. Make sure you know your business:

There is nothing more guaranteed to kill a potential deal or business relationship, than not knowing your facts. If when you are asked about what it is you do and what you offer, if you cannot give a good, interesting summary of your business, then you will sound unprofessional. You need to make sure you are confident about what you are eventually going to say and that you know your business and industry inside out. However be warned, never pretend. Often at networking events individuals have more experience than you and will instantly pick up on any exaggerations or inaccuracies.

5. Relax and have fun:

Networking events can be incredibly enjoyable, especially when you have the opportunity to connect with other individuals who are as passionate about business as you are. Don’t worry if your self confidence is lacking there are many events for new businesses owners and in most cases the hosts will help you break the ice. Just be yourself, while being professional at all times and you will get more from your networking than business cards.
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