Small business owners use networking as a means to form relationships with others, in like or related fields, that help to expand their business' ability to find new customers, partner and grow.
A key element to effective networking is to make you known. The premise being that the more people you meet, the more people there will be to get to know and remember both you and your business. You should use every professional and social opportunity to meet and connect with new people.
Here are some key reasons that clearly outline why networking is important for small business.
1. Business Leads
Networking is a great way to acquire new business leads. Using the contacts you make when you meet people can open doors for business opportunities.
Communicate professionally when you follow up on leads. People want to help others but aren’t interested in someone badgering them for business. Be sensitive to timing and use common courtesy when following up with contacts.
2. Identify Best Practices
Networking is a great way to identify business best practices or industry benchmarks. Learning from what others do is a valuable strategy for all businesses.
For example, if you own a restaurant and you belong to a restaurant association, you can find out what the latest software programs are or employee management practices that you can bring back to your own business.
3. New Business Trends
Networking can help you stay on the cutting edge of technology and new business trends. These types of relationships and “inside” information can give you an advantage over your competitors by implementing new and fresh ways of doing things.
Having said all of this, networking is a skill and some people are just naturally more gifted at mingling with people they don’t know and making friends on first contact.
Practice being friendly and learn the art of striking up conversations. Learn the trick to remembering people’s names that you meet. Get a system; write something specific about a person on the back of their business card so you can remember them when you get back to your office.
4. Increased Confidence
By regularly networking, and pushing yourself to talk to people you don’t know, you will get increased confidence the more you do this. This is really important as a business owner, because your business growth is very dependant on talking to people and making connections.
Networking is great for people that aren’t confident as it really pushes them to grow and learn how to make conversations and lasting connections with people they don’t know.
“It’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know”. This old adage is absolutely true when it comes to building successful business. To grow your small business quickly you will need to have a strong source of relevant connections in your network that you can call on when you need them.
Networking can open the door to talk to highly influential people that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to easily talk to or find.
It’s not just about who you are networking with directly either – that person will already have a network you can tap into as well. So ask the right questions to find out if the person you are networking with knows who you want to know!
Related Reading: Tips to Becoming a Better Networker
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