Studies show that first impressions occur within the first two minutes of meeting someone new. And there’s evidence to suggest that people make a snap judgment about you even faster.
That’s a lot of pressure, especially when you need meaningful connections to help your business thrive. Here are 7 business networking tips for entrepreneurs to help you create contacts to support your business goals.
1. Break out of your shell and attend events
If you’re an introvert with a great idea for a small business, you may feel shy about seeking people out and making connections. If business networking makes you nervous, find a meet-up or a networking event where making new contacts is expected and encouraged. Chances are, you’ll feel more comfortable meeting new people and talking business if everyone else is doing it, too.
2. Plan your openers
Another way to make networking easier is to plan ahead and craft some openers to help start a conversation. Remember, you’re not the only one who’s nervous about meeting new people.
Start with a simple open-ended question like, “So, what brings you here?” When the person replies, show interest and ask a follow-up question, laying the foundation for an easy conversation.
3. Prepare your elevator pitch
Eventually, you’ll run out of questions, or the conversation will naturally turn to you and what you do for a living. When this happens, have a clear, succinct pitch prepared.
Give yourself about 30 seconds to a minute to talk about your business and your goals. Then turn the conversation back to them with a question. It may feel too early to put the ball back in their court, but you’re simply forming a connection right now, not giving a presentation.
4. Smile and be sincere
A friendly smile works wonders when you’re meeting someone for the first time. Be sincere in your interest about what they do. Make eye contact and use your body language and tone to show you’re genuinely engaged in the conversation.
5. Give, don’t just take
One of the most crucial networking tips for entrepreneurs is the law of reciprocity. Instead of taking from people, give instead. It’s so simple, yet so effective. It helps build a connection.
When you meet people who could be an asset to your business or could lead you to potential clients, find a way to help that person first. Maybe you could introduce them to a valuable contact of yours, or do them some kind of favor. The individuals you help will be more likely to help you in the future.
6. Ask for a business card
When you have a great conversation with someone, ask that person for his or her business card. By requesting the card, you are saying, “I’m interested in you and what you do. I’d like to connect with you again in the future so we can help each other.” Once your new contact hands over the card or gives you a phone number, you can offer yours in exchange.
The act of physically giving someone something, like your business card, reaffirms your offer of an introduction or a favor. So be sure to have business cards in your pocket to give to new contacts.
7. Follow up
At the end of a conversation, ask new contacts how you can help them. Then, follow up with them and follow through on your offer of assistance. You could:
- Connect on LinkedIn.
- Make an introduction and connect two people with each other.
- Post about your new contact’s business on your Facebook page.
By doing this, you lay the foundation for a healthy and valuable network of your own.
Networking is all about connection
In a way, networking is a type of marketing. But it goes much deeper than that. It’s about creating meaningful connections and becoming known as a sincere person and a valued resource in your business community. Devote the time to crafting your network, and you’ll reap the benefits for your business in the years to come.
> If you’re heading to a business networking event, make sure you’re prepared with branded business cards.