How to Get Better at Networking for Small Business Owners
Networking is good for business owners because it helps build relationships, access resources, increase visibility, and foster collaboration for growth and success. Because of this, it’s important to invest time in knowing how to get better at networking.
15 years ago, I walked into my first ever networking event ever. I’d attended a ‘grow your business’ event, and at the end of it, a local photographer approached me.
He praised my business thoroughly. Afterwards, he invited me to a breakfast meeting to meet other business owners.
He was certain that I’d like it. So, I took his word for it. Trying doesn’t hurt…
Admittedly, I was overwhelmed by the event.
It felt like I was at a party where everyone knew everyone, except me.
And while everyone was so friendly, I didn’t feel confident. I prayed silently that I wouldn’t be called upon to say anything, which, of course, was wishful thinking.
At the end of the meeting, the chairperson publicly asked me to join the group. I felt pressured, and I never went back.
And worst of all, I didn’t make a single connection. The experience left me feeling like networking just wasn’t for me.
It wasn’t until later that I realised that it’s completely normal to feel that way.
It’s normal to feel scared when you enter a room where everyone knows the other. What is not normal is allowing that feeling to control you.
And after attending hundreds of workshops, it’s safe to say that I’ve picked up a few lessons along the way. Today, networking to me feels natural. It’s a breeze in the park.
It’s my dream that everyone starts to see the benefits of networking, and just how much it can do for your business.
Remember, your network is your net worth.
Earlier this year, I wrote a guide on how to network like a pro. This post is a summary of the pointers in the guide.
Here are 5 tips to get better at networking:
- Prepare Adequately
- Follow Up
- Help your Network
- Have Meaningful Conversations
- Stay Calm
1. Prepare Adequately
“Networking is just not for me. I’ve never gotten any business from networking.”
I’ve heard this countless times, and it all boils down to one thing. Poor preparation.
The chances of getting business from your first networking event are unlikely. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And you need to play the long game.
Communicate with the Host
Take time to get to know the host. He/She can give you a glimpse of what the networking group is all about. They can give you pointers. They can introduce you to people.
Research the Regulars
It’s always good to know who might be in the room before you walk into it. Chances are, you’ll find people who have common interests as yours. But beyond that, researching the regulars helps you build connections, learn from experienced professionals, leverage industry connections, stay informed about trends, and enhance your personal brand.
Your Elevator Pitch
As part of preparing, you’ll also need some clarity on what exactly you do. You can’t expect people to give you business if you don’t directly tell them what you do.
What solution do you provide? How do you help people? What’s your competitive advantage? Practise a clear statement that you’ll use when the time comes.
If you are well prepared, things are much more likely to work for you.
2. Follow Up
“The secret to networking is in 1-2-1s”
I’ve said this statement a thousand times. And I stand by it.
You won’t gain much by just going to a networking event, and leaving things as they are.
How do you follow up?
Connect on Social Media
Within the first 48 hours, you need to make good use of social media. Stay in touch.
Connect with the people and engage with them. You never know how you could benefit from the person next to you unless you get in touch with them.
Ask for a 121
121s are crucial for networking as they provide dedicated time to establish deeper connections, understand each other’s needs, exchange valuable insights, and foster mutually beneficial relationships.
3. Help your Network
There’s a fundamental rule of business that’s also relevant to networking. “To win at the game of business, people must first know you, then like you, before they finally trust you.”
How do you get from one point to the next? It’s simple…
Other than following up, if you want to gain more from networking, you have to understand givers’ gain!
It’s a great concept, I think.
The best networkers are the ones who look to help rather than receive.
I can guarantee that if you help someone, they’ll definitely think of you next time.
Even when you can’t see the immediate benefits to you, always seek to help other people. When you do, you’ll eventually start to reap the benefits for yourself.
Here are two things you need to do to help your network:
Ask Better Questions
One of the best ways to foster a connection is to ask the right questions. It shows that you are genuinely interested in who they are and what they do. And by doing this, you easily figure out how you can help them.
Understand Givers’ Gain
By giving and helping others without expecting an immediate return, you can ultimately benefit in the long run.
It’s why they say that your network is your net worth. You may not benefit immediately, but offering support, knowledge, resources or connections will help you build trust and strengthen relationships. This will lead to reciprocal acts of kindness and opportunities.
4. Have Meaningful Conversations
If you want to get people to know you, you need to have meaningful conversations with them.
You can do this by having some conversation starters. Listen actively to what’s being said and ask good questions.
Here are two ways to make sure that you are having meaningful conversations:
Get Crystal Clear on What You Do
Understand that people can’t help you unless they understand what you do. Use simple language that is easy to understand by everyone.
When you have a clear and concise explanation of what you do, it becomes easier for others to understand and remember, increasing the likelihood of meaningful connections and potential opportunities.
Stop Pitching Slapping
Sales needs to be gentle. The best kind of marketing does not feel like marketing. And for a good reason…
People don’t pay attention to you when you aggressively and unsolicitedly pitch or promote oneself or one’s business without considering the needs or interests of the other person.
Instead, take a more thoughtful approach. Listen to others, understand their needs, and offer value before promoting your own interests.
5. Stay Calm
Have you ever met someone who is annoyingly confident? They walk into a room and speak their mind. They’re not afraid to say what’s on their mind. And they wear their hearts on their sleeves.
It may look that way on the outside, but I can bet you that there’s more to it. Somewhere deep within, everyone’s a little intimidated by crowds. Everyone is shy in their own way.
Human beings are more similar than different.
So just how do you stay calm?
Take Deep Breaths
Deep breaths are a great strategy to calm your nerves. They bring you back to the present by activating the body’s relaxation response, which can help reduce stress, lower heart rate, and promote a sense of calmness.
This enhances your presence, confidence, and ability to engage in conversations effectively, making networking experiences more enjoyable and productive.
Remember that we’re all Naked Underneath
If you’re experiencing some social anxiety, it’s likely that you’re not alone. We are all naked underneath.
First impressions matter. In fact, it’s been said that people make first impressions within seven seconds.
And remember, first impressions are lasting impressions. So even though you feel intimidated by the people in the room, be brave.
Because chances are high that everyone else is in the same boat as you. Some people are just better at hiding it.
Networking is possibly one of the cheapest forms of marketing.
It’s also one of the most effective forms because it relies on word-of-mouth, another powerful strategy.
If you want to get better at networking, the 5 tips are:
- Prepare adequately
- Follow up
- Help your network
- Have meaningful conversations
- Stay calm
Earlier this year, I wrote a comprehensive guide with the top 16 tips to network like a pro. If you’ve reached this far I can guarantee that you’ll like it. Download the FREE Ebook here.
We’re always up for a chat, so get in touch. Outside ideas are on a mission to help people and businesses grow.