Being a skilled networker will help your business grow in any economy. But in this challenging environment, with money tight and sales hard to come by, networking can be one of your most cost-effective business-development tools.
So, how do you network when you dread networking?
I think what people dread about networking is that there is always a secret alterior motive. You network to meet interesting people who may be a potential prospect and therefore you feel guilty starting a potential unauthentic relationship just to gain sales.
Here are 4 tips for approaching small business networking in a more organic fashion:
- Be authentic
- Network while supporting a cause
- Invest in your “top 10″ relationships
- Connect others
Be authentic – start conversations with others without a hidden agenda, just be yourself. If you don’t know anyone at the event, walk up to someone and introduce yourself. If you haven’t been to the event before – mention that and ask if the person you approached has ever been and strike up a genuine conversation.
Network for a Cause – It’s great when you can go to an event to support a good cause, but also meet and network with new interesting individuals. The benefits are two fold and you already have something in common as you are all at the event to support the same cause. If you are looking for such an event – there is Network for a Cause ~ Wine & Beer Tasting on 10/18.
Invest in your relationships - “Create an ‘intriguing people’ fund,” suggests Levit in a post that culls networking ideas from the book Start-Up of You. What does she mean? “Funnel a certain percentage of your paycheck into a bucket that pays for coffees, lunches, and the occasional plane ticket to meet new people and shore up existing relationships,” she advises.
Connect with others – nourish existing relationships. When the days are long and your “to do list” is endless, it’s hard to add extra time to maintain relationships. It is important though to continue to develop those contacts that truly would be your support system should you need to reach out and ask for a favor or a connection.
Networking for small business? Check out our Small Biz Special: Networking & Lead Generating Tips – TheStreet TV
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