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A small business blog featuring tips to help entrepreneurs succeed in the small business world. Topics include family business, human resources, marketing, money, networking, operations, ownership, startup, taxes and technology.
Building New Business Contacts: Networking 101
Contacts are an important aspect of any business, but are essential to the survival of a small business. Without contacts you cannot expand your clientele and your business will not grow. Below are some pointers on how to continually expand your list of contacts.
1) Ask your current/ongoing network for new contacts.
Your current network includes:
• Previous employers, associates and co-workers
• Successful friends and family
• Long lost high school and college classmates
• Current clientele
2) Use your daily activities to your advantage.
Your everyday social activities can provide great connections. For example, when going to play golf with a friend, ask him to bring some of his colleagues along. Such activities afford an opportunity to market yourself and your business in a relaxed social environment.
Use this quality time to build trusting relationships. Be yourself and don’t bring up your business unless the conversation leads that direction. You don’t want to come on too strong and irritate a potential client. After all, the purpose of playing golf is to relax and not deal with work issues, despite the fact that everyone is continually thinking about them.
3) Join a professional organization.
Professional organizations provide an outstanding opportunity to network. However, before joining any organization, be sure research the organization and make sure it is the best option for you and your business. Some key questions to ask are:
• Are their membership fees and how often are they due?
• Is there a certain time commitment expected of members?
• Are their conferences (opportunities to meet people natiionwide)?
• How active are the members; will they participate as much as you?
• Is the organization industry focused?
• Are their opportunities for “cross-pollination” with your company?
4) Attend conferences in your industry.
Not only do industry conferences provide an opportunity to expand your network, but they also provide a plethora of information about the latest trends, developments, etc. in your industry. It is a venue with access to both competitors and potential clientele, which opens opportunities for you to better your business as well as expand it.
Key elements to successfully establishing new contacts:
• Commit your sales script to memory. Don’t recite the entire script with each introduction, but know it so that you can communicate the key elements to others throughout your conversation.
• Ask conference attendees you already know for introductions.
• Follow-up with the people you met by sending a letter within a week, requesting an official meeting.
5) Help others establish their network.
What goes around comes around. If you help others find potential clientele, they will likely help you as their own network expands.
Regardless of whether you use one or all of these recommendations, always remember that networking takes time. You may not see the fruits of your labor for months, and sometimes even years. But, make a positive impact, and most people are sure to think of you when they need the services you provide.
• BusinessWeek.com: Ties That Bind and Build a Business
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How to Profit From Networking
Ways to Promote Yourself
The Networking Boogie Man
Connections Trump Contacts
Stop Sitting on the Sidelines