Whether you’re uncomfortable in groups, new to an organization or struggling with an introverted nature that saps your energy when you’re around other people, there are easy ways to grow your reach, credibility and business prosperity at gatherings.
Most people misunderstand the terms introvert and extrovert. Simply put, extroverts are energized by being around other people. Introverts recharge when alone.
No matter your nature, everyone finds some facet of networking uncomfortable.
Part of the problem is, contrary to popular belief, networking is not selling. Think about it. Do you cringe when that hardcore promoter or guy with a speed dating mindset approaches you at a business gathering? Will you buy from him?
9 non-salesy tips for small business networking success
Being a featured speaker is an easy way to gain credibility at an event. Why not pitch a presentation to the organizers of the national meetings you plan to attend? Not only will you (usually) reduce or eliminate participation costs, but you might get paid.
Know your stuff and prepare your comments carefully to ensure those listening leave impressed. That’s not difficult if you’re willing to devote the time necessary to understand what solutions and approaches will best resonate with your audiences’ issues.
The beauty of being a featured speaker is you don’t have to work a room to find people to talk to. Everyone comes to you.
The most memorable conversationalists are the best listeners. It’s easier for most introverts to ask probing questions than to talk about themselves (and a better way to sell). Everyone learns more about what a prospect needs – and how to couch comments to solve the challenge – by encouraging another to talk. You can build instant rapport and a stable of great referral agents by listening and showing you care.
Don’t’ go to a networking event trying to sell. Instead, identify respected referral agents (Pareto’s Principal or 80/20 rule applies) to discover what’s important to them. Mail a newspaper clipping, refer a prospect or send a thank you note mentioning an interest gathered during your dialog. That’s memorable.
Resist the temptation to ask for referrals from another – send leads first. You’ll be remembered when a prospect needs what you offer. It’s human nature to reciprocate.
4. Dress sharp – or different
This is important when you’re new to a group or trying to build credibility with centers-of-influence. Your attire should reflect group norms, stepped up just a little bit. You don’t want to wear a suit at a conference for plumbers, but a clean, crisp shirt with a logo can make you shine.
I attended many national NAWBO meetings over the years. Lois Goetz (I still remember her name – see how that works?) always wore hats. No one else did. She wore them well.
5. Get, don’t push business cards
Do you roll your eyes when someone you don’t know is shoving a business card in your hand before a conversation starts? Have your own professionally designed cards, but strive to get more than you give. It’s a lot more effective for small business marketing.
Jot a quick note on the back of the card (wait until your contact leaves) to remember for follow up (snail mail is better).
6. Get your own hotel room
This tip is for introverts especially, but important for everyone. What you’ll save doubling up on a room will be lost in the costs of down time being dictated by others.
If business building is your primary conference focus, use evenings to go through business cards, identify tomorrow’s want-to-meet targets and write while your mind is fresh. Capturing ideas, roughing up content for blogs and crafting media outreach strategies is best done onsite.
Introverts will also need this time alone to recharge. Without it, full focus tomorrow will be difficult.
7. Decline the social dinners
There’s always someone organizing a gang non-event meal. Usually, these are too crowded for meaningful conversation (often at an outrageously priced restaurant where all pay equal shares, drinkers included). Few notice whether you’re there or not. Choose one night to be social, but consider using other evenings to review your material, collect your thoughts and plan strategies to capitalize on the contacts and information you gathered during the day.
8. Join a committee or a board
This is a great strategy if you want to move from the seeker to sought-after (locally too). Members of an organization gravitate toward leaders. Being a decision maker also offers regular face time with the most active members (and usually most successful business owners).
You’ll be amazed at how credible you become and how easy it is to network when with the general membership.
9. Value time
It’s important to recognize your time matters; the same holds true of the people you seek to influence. Be careful what you commit to (or how much time you waste on less important activities) because that takes away moments from other things.
Small business networking can be easy
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, these tactics are effective. Make your marketing easier, faster and more rewarding with smarter strategies for small business networking.
Have creative ideas for rising above the crowd? Please share below. Need help being seen above the crowd? I can help.