Networking Skills and How to Use Them
People like to work with people they trust. And to trust someone, you have to get to know them. And to get to know them, you have to meet them in the first place. This is where networking comes in.
Meeting Like-Minded EntrepreneursThe lifestyle of an entrepreneur is unusual. Entrepreneurs work hard and often keep unsociable hours. They may lack financial security, but have immense freedom to try new things.
It is very useful to be able to talk to like-minded people about your work. Not to try to sell them anything necessarily, but merely to run an idea past someone who understands enterprise, to see if they think it will work.
Most towns have a Chamber of Commerce where you can meet local business owners. In addition, your local Business Link should be able to direct you to any other similar networks in your area.
Relevant conferences are a great place to meet new contacts from further afield. Always take business cards to these events, and ensure you are able to describe your company accurately, concisely and enthusiastically. You might even consider practicing this in front of a mirror if it does not come naturally to you: your preparation may result in some unexpected sales, so it’s worth the effort.
Finding Potential CustomersA trade show can be an excellent place to promote your company. You have a captive audience of people with an interest in your product or service. Talk to as many people as possible – both attendees and people from related enterprises – and try to swap contact details with the most interesting of these. You never know where a sale may come from.
Recruiting Employees and ContractorsDon’t be afraid to consider friends and acquaintances when you are trying to fill a job or have a task needing specialist freelance skills. Some people say that you should never work with friends for fear of damaging your relationship; you will have to decide on this for yourself, but the danger may be minimal if you trust each other’s judgment and professionalism.
Perhaps safer would be to ask friends if they can recommend anyone for the work. A friend of a friend is generally more reliable than a complete stranger.
Virtual NetworkingAlthough face-to-face networking has lots of advantages, the Internet presents its own opportunities for meeting new people and keeping in touch with your existing contacts. Social networking sites are good for promoting your company, and some of these have been designed with professional networking in mind.
Try creating a page for your company on a social networking site and inviting your existing clients to sign up for it. They will then find it easy to contact you, and you can keep them up to date with the latest news. This also provides your clients with an easy way to recommend your business to their friends, for very little effort on your part.