For entrepreneurs and small business owners, it’s critical to consistently produce new leads, contacts, and opportunities. Opportunities, however, don’t automatically knock on your door; you have to go out and make yourself available for them. Making use of networking is one approach to do that. While you may be accustomed to operating your business on your own as an entrepreneur, networking can not only bring in new clients but also present opportunities for your company to expand and prosper. 80% of professionals find networking essential to their career success. Small business owners should network effectively, here is some tips to get started;

Never stop networking

Take advantage of every opportunity, especially when you are first starting out. Even if nothing comes of these initial exchanges, you’ll become more accustomed to talking to strangers. Why broaden one’s network of casual acquaintances? The reason is that these connections offer crucial recommendations, knowledge, and frequently, developmental help like coaching and mentoring. You never know who might end up being a valuable long-term business relationship; it could be someone you interview or someone whose email is speculative. Networking is ongoing. You can (and should!) network even if you’re not at a meeting or event.

Set objectives

Before you start networking, consider what you hope to gain from it in the long run. This will enable you to customise your strategy. Knowing your objectives will help you customise your approach when you are in networking settings as well as assist you choose which chances are most relevant to you.

Finding networking possibilities

Discovering the opportunities is the first step. Utilise your current network to find out about opportunities; search Facebook, and Eventbrite for local events; and observe what others in your sector are up to. The internet is bursting with groups wanting to get to know you, even if you reside in an entrepreneurial wasteland. Go to everything, and then eliminate the conferences or organisations that don’t include potential or your target audience. Get a sense of who attends, how the meetings are run, what day and time they occur, whether there is enough time set aside for chatting with other business owners, and how welcoming the organisation is to newcomers. 

What to discuss

Ask open-ended questions to encourage others to share more about themselves. The most natural talks will result from focusing on what you have in common with the other person. Asking for support or help is a fantastic way to start a conversation. Consider some of the difficulties your company is now experiencing, and seek counsel from people with relevant experience. Bonus: This offers you a cause to contact them again after your first meeting. You should also consider your elevator pitch. Even though networking is mostly about the other person, you will probably also be asked about yourself. Be ready to describe who you are and what you do.

Mitigate the hard sale

Never forget that the main goal of networking is connection building, not self-promotion. You aim to establish relationships that, ideally, result in sales. Even if not everyone you meet will be your target consumer, they probably know someone who is.  You’ll miss out on not only the initial connection but also any potential referrals they could make to their network if you come across as a sleazy salesperson. Instead of going to networking events in order to meet people or do business for oneself, use the following tactic: By avoiding the hard sale, you’ll stand out from the crowd. Many people view networking as a chance to pitch. Being more genuine and humane will set you apart.

Think about the other person.

Do you detect a pattern here? It’s not about you when you network; it’s about the people you meet. Make the conversation about the person you’re conversing with rather than all about you. Pose intelligent follow-up questions and open-ended questions. Entrepreneurs and small business owners often have a great deal of passion for what they do. Unsure of what to inquire about? Some of our favourites include: What aspect of your business are you most enthusiastic about at the moment? What is your current significant business challenge? Numerous opportunities to relate to, assist, and learn more about the person arise as a result of these queries. Keep in mind to listen more often than you speak. Ask yourself this question if you feel like you could be droning on, then return the attention to the other person.

Be genuine

Both in your personal life and in business, not every connection is meant to be. Being able to pick your coworkers is one of the benefits of working for yourself. And that implies that not everyone will fit in. Many people are unaware of the importance of finding people who understand you and your personality when networking. If a relationship isn’t right, don’t force it. Know the kinds of people you want to conduct business with, stay loyal to yourself and your brand, and focus your efforts on attracting and engaging with your target audience.

Follow up 

Your work isn’t done once you’ve networked. It’s crucial to cultivate the new connections you’ve made. However, following up doesn’t mean adding everyone you meet to your list of subscribers for an email newsletter. Personalise your follow-up to the person instead. Call back to a point you made earlier, give some counsel, and continue talking. A business card is a chilly connection that doesn’t encourage further dialogue. By having genuine talks, you can develop relationships. Make an effort to provide value to your relationships by providing recommendations, resources, ideas, and experience rather than just self-promotion or trying to complete a deal.

Make yourself easy to remember and find.

Networking frequently gets off to a good start but then fades away. When you go to an event, you can be all fired up about making new connections, but nothing may come of it, especially if you’ve merely exchanged contact information. In these situations, it’s critical to stand out and be easy to find. If proactive follow-up is not possible, you can help people locate you in a few different ways. Make sure the website’s URL is simple to remember and spell. Better still, use a service to generate a unique abbreviated URL. Give business cards out. Ensure that your profiles on LinkedIn and other professional networking sites are current and complete.

Networking professionally in the future

Why aren’t you putting yourself out there more? Start simply and casually if you’re hesitant to speak to a group of people you’ve never met before.  For a multifaceted strategy, use the resources available to learn how to network online and take advantage of professional networking opportunities in person. Before you realise it, people will begin to search for you. Join us at The MAC, Belfast as we bring together Northern Ireland’s hottest, sharpest, most creative and resilient minds for a night filled with actionable takeaways that will help you succeed both personally and professionally.