3 Steps for Networking for Entrepreneurs
A large part of the success of an SME is their ability to lead a dynamic enterprise so that it is constantly adapting to the shifting demands of the market. As many successful entrepreneurs know, this advanced degree of flexibility and access to information is in part due to the connections they have created. A strong network allows for exponential creation, as it can lead to finding more efficient solutions, accumulating a larger client base, having access to more resources, and developing business alliances. For this reason, perhaps one of the most important skills an SME can have is knowing how to network.
We’ve developed a list of the key steps for networking at events:
1. Arrive with a Plan
Begin by knowing the room beforehand. If you plan on attending a seminar or workshop, for example, do some research about the speakers:
- Who are they?
- What could you stand to learn from them?
- Why might they be interested in you?
Having pre-meditated questions will allow for you to ask all the right things, and will make you seem knowledgeable and interested.
In addition, you should be able to anticipate the audience based on the event. They could be:
- Angel investors
- Venture capitalists
- Corporate networks
- Local media
- Potential clients
Go with the idea that you are going to learn, listen, and connect.
2. Create a Positive Impression
You are there representing your business. Make sure it is in the best light possible!
- Use the “hostess principle”. Forbes describes this method as one in which you act as the host or hostess in a party. Your intention is to be graceful and act as the “convener of the event”. The idea here is to show your ability to lead and facilitate discussions, while making everyone else more comfortable and grateful for your presence.
- Learn to listen. Genuinely care in what the other person is saying. Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, writes: Listening closely to someone “is one of the highest compliments we can pay anyone”. Maintain eye contact, ask questions directly relating to what they are saying, and lean forward to show interest.
- Be memorable. Wear an unusual pin, or perhaps tell a joke during the conversation. In a similar way, be personal. Write your personal email in the back of your business card for those with whom you made a good connection. Doing this will keep you in the other person’s mind, even when they have met many, many others.
- Don’t just ask for help, offer it. Giving advice will be likely be reciprocated.
3. Remain Present
Once the event is over and you are heading back home with many business cards in your pocket, don’t immediately start thinking about your dinner plans. Take some time to reflect on the possibilities that could come into fruition because of the connections you made in the event. The best way to convert these possibilities to reality are by:
- Crafting short but thoughtful e-mails/letters to the connections you made. The day after the event, send it. Mention that one memorable thing you did, or a specific comment in the conversation that you found enlightening. End the email offering your help for future projects, and with an open invitation to meet again.
- Asking for help. After a few meetings with your new connections, think about how your professional relationship could prove beneficial to you. Take advantage of your network, and reach out to them to ask for introductions or advice.
- Paying it forward. If you see a way that you could prove useful to them, offer that recommendation, client, or idea. The initiative and sincerity will be well-received and appreciated. Remember, you are as successful as your network.