For anyone who has ever read articles I have written or asked me for helpful tips for getting their business up and going, you know that I truly believe that networking is one of the most important aspects to building a successful business. The spoken word has an awesome power for any entrepreneur.
Networking, in relation to running your business, is not just attending events that allow you to meet new contacts and exchange business cards. Networking is any time you talk about your business. Whether you are at a social event and you get the chance to bring up the wonders of being a small business owner or you bump into an old college friend and you swap stories about what has happened in your lives since you last saw each other, anytime you get to tell someone about your business, that is networking and you should jump at the chance.
Even when you chat on the email discussion lists that you belong to and use your signature line, that is networking. There are so many opportunities to network every day.
But (and I am sure some of you can relate to this) the hardest part of networking can be “what do I say?” How do you let them know the great aspects of your business without over doing it or sounding full of yourself?
Well, there are many contributing factors when it comes to saying just the right thing at just the right time, factors that will influence how well you impress others and whether you leave a positive lasting effect. First and foremost, what are the circumstances of your encounter? Are you at an organized networking event or are you chatting with a friend? More often than not, your attitude and professionalism will be determined by your surroundings.
You will also have to play it by ear at times. You need to get a feel of how much your listener wants to hear. If someone comes right out and asks, “What do you do?”, don’t refrain. This is a perfect opportunity to describe your business. But, there are two things to remember… one, don’t over talk; and two, give your audience a chance to talk about themselves as well.
However, if you are in a situation where it is not an organized networking event but you get the feeling that mentioning your business would fit into the conversation, then be as reserved as the situation warrants. A social conversation is no the place to ramble on. A quick mention would suffice and, if you notice an interest from the person you are talking to, by all means continue on. But remember to call it quits when you get a feeling it is time to do so.
Regardless of the situation, if you have an opportunity to talk about your business, be sure that one of the first things you mention is the benefits your product of service offers. Sure, your name and the name of your business is important but it is the benefits of your products or service that are going to influence your listener and make the sale.
Also, networking is like playing the piano… you get better with time and practice. Everyone feels nervous (to a certain degree) when they visit networking events, whether they are in the start up phase or even after years of running their business. But, the more times you attend them, the easier it will get. You will be able to calculate what you say that has the highest impact on your listener and mould that into the perfect infomercial for your product or service.
Networking is a vital and powerful way to promote your business. So, keep your eyes open for opportunities and fine-tune what you will say and soon you will become a master at convincing others of the benefits of what you have to offer.
Janice Byer is the founder of Docu-Type Administrative & Web Design Services (http://www.docutype.net), a professional Virtual Assistance and Website Design company, specializing in helping small business owners get ahead. She is a certified Canadian Virtual Assistant and Master Virtual Assistant and winner of the Most Successful Start Up 2000 and Home Based Business of the Year 2000 Awards