1. Have a networking buddy
It’s no fun showing up to a party alone. Ask a coworker, friend or significant other if they’d be willing to attend a networking event with you.
If you can’t find a buddy to attend with, no problem. Try to ease into the event by approaching someone who is also alone. Ask them questions about what they do and be genuine in your interaction. It never hurts to spend some time practicing a few natural and relevant conversation starters so you can hit the ground running. Try talking about things outside of business as well. Conversations while networking will naturally get back to business, but finding a common interest or hobby will take the pressure off both of you.
2. Attend one event a month
Scheduling out one networking activity a month is a great goal to set. If you can’t find an industry related event, set up a lunch instead. Or think outside the box and attend a community forum or club. Once you’re there, go out of your way to make your presence felt. Shake hands, introduce yourself and make sure to have business cards with you that you can hand out.
When planning which events to attend, look for those with people who will be able to refer their customers to you. For example, if you’re an insurance agent, build relationships with local car dealerships, home builders or doctors. Chances are, these businesses will have the opportunity to recommend you as an insurance agent.
3. Practice your pitch and exit
When building a new business relationship, you want to keep the initial conversation engaging and genuine. AKA this is not the time for a 30 minute sales demo. Instead, practice a 60 second elevator pitch that covers the key points of your offering or proposal. Practice with friends and family at home, and be open to feedback. If you’re confident when practicing at home, you’ll find it easy to give your pitch in public.
As funny as it sounds, it’s also important to practice your exit. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than trying to end a conversation at a networking event. This is a great tip from Hub Spot’s Blog: If there’s a lull in conversation, say “Please let me know how that [idea, project, etc.] goes, I’d love to hear how it turns out.” This shows you were engaged, and though it ends the conversation in the moment, they won’t feel offended. Also consider asking them “Have you seen anyone from [company name] tonight? I’ve been meaning to chat with them.” This politely shows that it’s important for you to move on and expand your network. Offer your card before you leave, and you will have made a seamless exit.
4. Have a little fun with your business card
You should always show up prepared with business cards and info about your business. Offering a card or pamphlet is one of the easiest ways to begin or end a conversation at an event. Make sure your card and other materials are designed well and offer a great representation of your company. Canva is an excellent resource for all things design and allows you to use templates to create professional looking business cards. When creating your cards, think if there’s a way to use colors, images, paper thickness, logos or slogans to stand out.
5. Use LinkedIn to follow up after
Following new connections on social media is a good way to keep momentum going after an initial conversation. LinkedIn is better positioned than other social media sites to do this as it’s designed to be an online networking platform. First, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to par and make the effort to occasionally post industry content or updates on your business. Then, after forming a new business relationship, reach out to them with a connection request on LinkedIn. You can include an accompanying message which makes it easy to carry on the conversation. After you’ve connected, use LinkedIn to continue to build your relationship. Reach out occasionally to ask how things are going on their end and if there are any opportunities for you to work together.
As your network grows, so will your business. For more tips on networking, and other ways you can grow your business, check out our latest ebook and get 16 tips to take your marketing to the next level.