Six Keys to Successful Networking for Entrepreneurs
Successful entrepreneurs know that the lifeblood of their business is found in making the right connections. Whether it is for potential business alliances, sales, marketing, supply chain management or just to escape the loneliness of being a solopreneur, making connections is vital for business growth. For those of us that are extroverts, this may come easily. For many, it may not be so easy. My intention today is to share six proven practices that can make this a rewarding part of what you do to strengthen you business. The six practices are:
1. Start with a plan– All good businesses start with a plan so why wouldn’t the area of networking get the same attention as other parts of your business planning? Very often, this area is left to chance or happenstance. Ask yourself these following questions. Who would I need to connect with to be wildly successful? What groups, individuals or companies could be most beneficial to my future business? What will help me to grow as an entrepreneur? How can I connect with them? Write down your answers and then prioritize what your networking activities with be in the course of a day, week and month. Incorporate your activities into your calendar and commit to a plan with a timeline.
2. Be selective with your efforts- As a business owner, time is the most important commodity that you have so be judicious of where you spend your time. Look for events that feed your business and mind. Utilize social networking strategically. As social media grows, so does the spam and self promotion attempts. Be strategic in your outreach and target your efforts towards connections that will help your business grow.
3. Use the “hostess principle”– Now down to the brass tacks of “working” an event. You are finally at an event and are armed with your elevator speech and a pocketful of business cards. Your name tag is on the upper right hand side of your suit or dress. Do a quick sweep of the room and see who you want to meet. Now is where the “hostess principle” comes in. Walk up to the person or small group and gracefully stick out your hand to introduce yourself. The key is to act as if you are the convener of the event and it is your job to make everyone comfortable. If you approach it with this mindset, you will be amazed at how comfortable you will become and how comfortable others will be. The same principle holds true for connections made via phone, linked in, email or other ways. A hostess puts others first and generously gives to make others feel comfortable.
4. Make a real connection- The goal is not to get as many business cards as you can, but to make quality connections. It is important to be genuine and honest. The fallacy of much of social media these days is that it keeps us all connected. A connection is not bad but it is not a relationship. It is a relationship that sustains a business for the long term. To develop a personal relationship it takes face to face communication, nurturing, and time.
5. Build and keep your network current- It is so easy these days to build contacts and connections with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. LinkedIn has become the sophisticated rolodex for business professionals. Use it often to update, share, congratulate and connect.
6. Pay it forward by helping others to achieve success- The final key to success builds on old fashioned notions. You will only be as successful as you help others to be successful. Help others to achieve. Introduce them to potential clients, recommend them, offer help and suggestions, and send business their way. It is most important to do this when you are not looking for something from them. Be sincere and care about their well-being. It is a hallmark of leadership that will set you apart.
The art of networking is one with many rewards. Master this important skill set and new business doors will fly open for you. You will be enriched by the relationships you make as you help others to achieve their goals while meeting your own objectives.
Originally published by Susan Rittscher of Forbes