Networking is defined by businessdictionary.com as creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit. And by wikipedia.org as a socioeconomic business activity by which business people and entrepreneurs meet to form business relationships and to recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities, share information, and seek potential partners for ventures.
Networking is key to building social capital. A business cannot succeed without social capital. Social capital is made up of people who are potential buyers of your product, investors, partners, or employers. Social capital is why businesses advertise. You need to get your product out there and as a young entrepreneur, you most likely do not have the means to pay for advertising so your next best option is networking and here’s how to go about it.
There are events organized simply for networking purposes but for the most part, you have to make use of business social networking websites e.g. LinkedIn, general social networking websites or just talking to people at social gatherings, plane, or train rides. Whatever you do, never ever see any contact as irrelevant; a person may not be interested in buying what you’re selling but chances are he knows someone who will be. Moral of the story: every contact is important. This is what I like to call the golden rule. Follow this and my five principles and you will be on your way to becoming a master networker.
- Elevator Speech: People have short attention spans so you want to be concise and interesting enough that they want your contact details (employ this method in text-based descriptions as well). In your pitch, you should mention your name business name location and why people should buy from you. Try to do all of this in 20 seconds or less. In networking, less is truly more. Give bullet points and keep your explanations for next time.
- Follow Up: Don’t leave it off after your short speech and hope they call you. Wait a few days (I suggest 3 to 5) and call or send an email. Reintroduce yourself and you can give more details on what you mentioned in your pitch.
- Relevant Targeting: Although every contact is important, it’s a good idea to have a specific target group. Your target group should be your target audience or market. If you know the class of people who are more likely to become customers or investors, go to them.
- Help Others: in business, you must be willing to help others if you want any help from them. It’s like like4like or retweet4retweet on social media. If you give someone a referral they are more likely to give one back. You should remember that the quickest way to make money is by solving a problem (apply the same principle here)
- Be Positive: Always wear a smile and say thank you genuinely. If a person keeps you talking for hours, takes your free samples and still doesn’t want to buy or is being troublesome, smile and say ‘thank you for your time’ at the end. Do not speak ill of anyone. If you think they have a rotten attitude, keep it to yourself. You want to maintain a positive front so people warm up to you and you remain in their good graces.
Conclusively, always do some research on the event you’re attending to know the kind of people that will be there. Make sure to keep your integrity. If people know they can trust you, they’ll be more likely to mention your name when it matters. And just be a good person because we all know that good things happen to good people. Remember, your competitors are all potential allies – it’s all in the mind.