There are few ways better to connect with local business owners than networking. And yet, so many entrepreneurs dread the effort it requires. Why?
Maybe they’re self-conscious about attending an event alone, or don’t feel comfortable introducing themselves to total strangers.
As uncomfortable as networking may make you, it’s an essential part of your marketing efforts. Just avoid these major fails so your networking efforts actually pay off.
Fail 1: Not Networking at All
Networking can’t work for you if you don’t do it! So before you tell yourself that it’s not worth the effort to drive to that business event across town, just do it. You will have to attend several events over time for it to pay off, so be patient.
Fail 2: Having Big Expectations Day 1
As I said, it takes time for networking to pay off. You can’t walk into an event and start selling products. Networking is about building relationships over time.
The rewards might not come in the form of monetary sales from your networking group, but perhaps you get introduced to someone who helps take your business to the next level after a few months.
Fail 3: Peppering the Room With Your Business Card
I call this the shotgun approach, and I’ve seen it firsthand. A guy walks into a networking event and literally drops his card into every hand without slowing down to introduce himself or talk to anyone. I’m willing to bet he walked away thinking networking was a wasted effort. And no wonder!
Reserve handing your card out only to people you engage with, who seem interested in you and what you do.
Fail 4: Talking About Yourself
You reason, “I’m here to grow my business, so I should talk about myself.”
Wrong. The best thing you can do is ask questions of others. Get them talking and put them at ease. You’ll find it simpler to build relationships if you’re curious about others. And who knows? You might discover you have something in common or that you can refer business to someone you meet.
Fail 5: Supporting the Wall
You absolutely cannot be a wallflower at these events! Networking doesn’t work if you don’t talk to people. It’s only scary the first time, and once you are embraced into the fold, you’ll find an easier time of introducing yourself.
Fail 6: Rambling on in Your Introduction
Someone asks what you do, and you launch into a 3-minute soliloquy. Or you have difficulty explaining what it is you do. “I make like, things for computers? Like, for people to use?”
This is where practicing your elevator speech ahead of time pays off. You should be able to explain, in 20 seconds or less, who you are and what your business does. Bonus points if you can also fit in a benefit that your products provide.
Here’s an example:
I’m Becky, and I’m the founder of NeckScarves International. Our scarves convert to hair accessories, and help women look great day or night.
It may take a while for you to feel confident in your networking endeavors, but I guarantee if you put the effort in, it will pay off.