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How To Master The Art of Networking to Build Your Small Business
We all hear about the importance of making time for networking. I am blessed to have had some amazing mentors who convinced me of the importance of this at a very early stage.
Good job really, because networking is the very reason my business has survived and grown.
A number of months ago, I visited one of my regular groups and noticed there was a new visitor. As usual, I went over to introduce myself to this lady and help her feel comfortable.
Introductions completed, she launched into a hard sales script, doing her best to sell her product to me in the space of 5 minutes. I could hardly hear what she was saying, as I was more focused on feeling trapped and wanting to get out of the conversation. As soon as I could, I thanked her for her time and excused myself as fast as I could.
Whenever I saw her after that, I would always keep my distance.
I am sure we have all experienced this at some point or another.
Networking is not a short-term thing; it’s not about making a fast sale.
It’s about building relationships, it’s about building a network of people who know who you are, what you do and trust you.
As entrepreneur Kathy Ireland once said…
“In business its about people, its about relationships”
It’s kind of like living in a very small village or community.
For years I lived in the small beachside town of Port Douglas, which was a beautiful place to live. During that time, I built a solid network of friends and acquaintances. And, because my reputation travelled amongst the community, I was always able to attract desirable, well-paid work.
This kind of network can take many months or even years to build.
When you take the time to do this as a business owner, it can lead to referrals and some amazing new opportunities for your business that you may not even be able to imagine right now, such as speaking engagements, collaboration or even new ventures, just to give you a few examples.
So I see it as an essential skill to learn and master. I’m far from the perfect networker, but during the least four years I have learned some very important principles that will help build your own community:
1. Be Consistent
When you join a networking group, make sure it is one where you are likely to find your target market and you are prepared to attend regularly. Consistency builds trust, the more often people see you and connect with you, the more likely they are to become a client or refer someone to you.
2. Be genuine and interested
Ask the person you are connecting with about their life and what they do in their business. Be genuinely interested in who they are and what they do. When you do this it makes the other person feel significant and they connect with you more.
Listening in an art in itself. People love to talk about themselves and feel that they have been heard. Many people don’t listen properly; they are too busy thinking about what they are going to say next. If you find yourself doing this, stop and really listen to what the other person is saying.
4. Give free advice
When I say this, I don’t mean sell your product or service. This is purely with the intention of giving and helping someone improve or solve a problem in that moment. Always remember that people know people. Even if they don’t become a client, they may know someone who is your ideal client.
If you meet someone you would like in your network, take the time to send them an email or catch up for a coffee. When you make this effort, the trust and connection will build even more.
As Small Business owners we are in the business of relationships and it always takes time to build on great connections. When we proactively focus on our networking skills, who knows where it will take us.
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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