Every time I get to a new duty station it feels like I have to start over. New friends, new clients and a whole new support system. Truth be told sometimes I wonder if being an entrepreneur is worth it while we are part of the military community. But over time I have learned that no matter where we are there is something I can do that makes the transitions easier – and that’s networking. Networking is the quickest and easiest way to make any of these challenges a little bit easier. And out of necessity, networking has become part of my everyday life. I network for business and for pleasure. I network to meet new contacts and strengthen relationships. Networking is essential to my small business success and my personal life, and I work hard at it in order to thrive.
Personally I love to network and it comes pretty naturally for me. But I know that’s not the case for every military spouse. For some of you social networking may feel like torture; others well… you may just suck at it. And that’s OK because by the end of this post you will know what to do to become better at it.
How do you enter a room? Do you throw up all over people trying to explain your business, perhaps you forget to listen thinking about what you will say next. Maybe you worry if the way pitch yourself. Heck you may be much to nervous to make the first effort to meet someone new.
Here are 10 simple things small business owners can do to become better at networking immediately:
- Give them a reason to get to know you. Go to events with the intention of building relationships not closing deals. There will be plenty of time to determine how you can work with people, IF you have a relationship with them. Remember people do business with those they know, like and trust…BE THAT FIRST!
- Don’t be pushy.Don’t come with your agenda and please stop pushing your products and services onto people right when you meet them. Spend time getting to know others, seek out those whose mission is similar to yours. Trust me partnerships that unfold naturally will last longer and be more beneficial than those that are pushed upon others.
- Ask questions and be interested in the answers. Find out all you can about the people you meet, be interested in who they are FIRST. Asking questions will tell you everything you need to know in order to land that contract in the future.
- Share your passion. Instead of sharing about the logistical side of your business talk about your passion and your mission. People care about you and why you do what you do more than they care about what you are selling.
- Identify The Needs of Others. The more you learn about others the more you will be able to identify their needs and wants. Knowing what makes people tick will help you support them easily and help you know when you can provide the solution they need.
- Refer and introduce. Don’t try to be all to everyone. Do what you do best and provide referrals and introductions often. Doing so let’s people know you have their best interests at heart and insures that they will come to you when the time is right for what you provide.
- Don’t be so serious. Meeting and networking are tiring, so make it fun. Smile and enjoy yourself, share a laugh and make someone else feel good about who they are or what they do.
- Collect Business Cards. Rather than just blatantly handing out your business cards, collect them from others. Take the time to write yourself notes and hints to help you remember the conversations you had with people.
- Follow up within 36 hours of the event. Without exception the cards and people you meet when networking are only as good as your ability to nourish and strengthen those relationships. Send an email right after the event, put in specifics about your conversation and thank them for taking the time to chat with you.
- Give them something. About a month after meeting someone I’d like to work with I make sure to provide them with something that will help them in a small way. It may be an article I find about their industry or hobby, an introduction/referral, or a heads-up about an upcoming event. By giving them something you not only highlight your name and business again, but you set yourself apart from the competition.
I’d love to hear your best small business networking tip!
Please share it in the comments below!
~Judy Davis, the Direction Diva is a motivational speaker, author and lifestyle blogger as well as a military life and teen suicide prevention expert. Co-founder of DASIUM, Judy’s books Right Side Up and Warning Signs: Is Your Teen at Riskare go to resources for families and her websites are filled with tips, inspiration and resources for those looking for direction. Connect with Judy at TheDirectionDiva.com