Working with business owners, I hear the same issues from company to company. It doesn't matter the industry or the size of the company. We all have the same problems. How do we grow? How do we get our name out there? How do we find quality clients or customers? Although the questions are very different, the answer seems to be the same. Networking! Getting out and meeting people. Talking to strangers.
That's what seems to hold us all back, talking to strangers. Who wants to do that? It's not always the most comfortable situation. Below are a few suggestions to help ease the networking nerves.
Don't join a networking group to get a plaque, then never again return. There are many organizations out there to get involved with. I recommend your local chamber of commerce. Then possibly another group that fits well with the kind of business you have.
Networking groups have the power to develop your whole client base. But you have to take advantage of the opportunities these groups provide. Most networking groups have a weekly or monthly meeting. Chambers have many activities throughout the month that give you the opportunity to network.
I have heard several people try something three or four times and then say "it didn't work for me." Then they move on to another group. Try that group three or four times and say "it didn't work for me." Then move on again. Make the most of your membership. There needs to be a consistent showing at these events. The more time and effort you put into it the more rewarding it will be. Get some roots. Give it some time. Don't be in a rush to change direction. Build the relationships.
Talk to anyone around you. Keep in mind everyone at networking events are there for the same reason. Everyone is looking to build their business and make great contacts. Even bold people get shy in these situations. You are not alone.
The first time I went to the Kirkland Chamber I was so nervous. There were so many people all mingling among themselves. I felt so out of place. I just stood there looking at everyone else laughing and swapping cards. I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what to do. All I knew was I was wasting my money and time by standing there alone.
I took all the nerve I had and said hi to the woman next to meet. Turns out she was an accountant, gold for bookkeepers like me. We started a conversation and switched cards. When she saw I was a bookkeeper she said, "What are you doing tomorrow? I need help with a client."
That's all it took. Now, its not always that easy, but going out and talking to people will eventually get you a lead.
GIVE YOUR CARDSTO EVERYONE
I have gone to functions and handed my card out to people I was sure would give me business and to people I was sure wouldn't. I have to say just about every time I have been wrong.
For instance, I went to a seminar and handed out 25 cards. I left feeling very good about the amount I handed out. I was sure 24 of them would call me. I was sure one would not. The one guy was unemployed and just there deciding what to do with his life. I wasn't even going to give him a card after our conversation. But he asked for one.
The next week I got a call from a woman looking for a bookkeeper. She got my name from the unemployed guy. A few days later I got a call from another woman from the unemployed guy. I asked her how she knew the guy. She told me they were in a networking group together and he announced to the group he met a great bookkeeper and handed out my name to all of them.
My most unlikely source produced more leads for me then all 24 I assumed would be solid referrals. You never know who someone knows or how they do business. You could be walking past a golden opportunity every day. Take the time to look around.
IT'S BETTER TO GIVETHAN RECEIVE
Networking is about getting out there and letting people know about you. But if you go out there and just say, "Me-me-me, what do you have for me," you are not going to get very far.
I met a man at a networking event. He came up to me after several meetings and told me he had a potential client for me and wanted to learn more about my business. We had lunch where he told me about his ideal clients and I told him about mine. By the end of the lunch he had given me a lead.
When I got home that evening I had an e-mail from him with another lead. A week later, another lead and another. Every time I turned around he had another lead for me. I was so impressed with him I turned around and found him two leads as well. I realized that was his way of doing business. He believed in giving and then receiving. He works hard to build relationships and keep them. I am his client now. I won't go to anyone else.
People are receptive. They want to talk with others. They want to tell their stories and they want to know about yours.
You are not alone in the world of networking. There is a world full of people trying to make it, trying to grow, trying to get new contacts, and trying to find a friendly face. Be that friendly face and watch your business grow.
Diana Gregory owns Small Business Accounting in Kirkland. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.[[In-content Ad]]