For some owners of small businesses, the appeal of networking lies somewhere between root canal and a maths exam. The fears are fair – we’ve all experienced the terror of the room full of strangers. But there are some key rules of engagement that can help even the most reluctant networker work the room in style.
Fail to prepare…
Never attend a networking event without having at least three clear objectives. They could be anything but will usually include drumming up new clients, engaging with new contacts, learning something new, and not forgetting to enjoy and have fun. So prepare – think about what to wear, what you want to achieve, and hone your pitch.
Get your pitch right
Networking isn’t just about meeting people. It’s also helping them understand what you do so they can either engage you, or spread the word to others. So, keep the pitch simple and direct. It can help to explain what you do by saying, ‘You know when you need to XXX, well I help businesses do that by XXX.’ And if they know that then they can easily explain it to others, and your message starts to spread.
Approach with care
Networking can be scary, especially if you’re nervous of approaching people. So, either choose someone on their own, or try to find an ‘open two’ where a duo are side by side, outward facing and looking for a third point in their triangle. It’s always hard to break into a tight, closed duo, so look for open groups and join in.
Using the mnemonic SHINE can help if you’re nervous:
the ‘S’ stands for smile,
the ‘H’ is handshake;
‘I’ is for eye contact
after that comes the Name;
and then finally ‘E’ for enthused: not overly enthusiastic but being open and interested in them.
You’re more likely to spot an opportunity by adopting that approach.
Listen and learn
Many people feel they need to wow their audience in order to be a successful networker. But in fact, try focusing less on being interesting, and more on being interested. People like to feel you’re interested in what they have to say, so ask questions about the things you might have in common: “Where do you come from? What brings you here?’
Ultimately, very few businesses will thrive and grow without someone getting out there and spreading the word. Networking comes naturally to some, but not all, so spending time perfecting your technique can help you get better at this crucial skill.
At Paul Beare Ltd we’re here to help you out with whatever your business needs, whether that’s managing your payroll, setting up your banking arrangements, or advising on your next phase of growth. Just get in touch and ask.