Monday, June 2, 2014

Entrepreneurial Skills: How to Network

At one of my monthly networking groups in NJ, we experienced a tragic loss this past month. We gathered on our usual Wednesday to find out that one of our own had died. He was one of the organizers for the group. Always enthused about all the attendees, topics for discussion and connecting businesses. This man was the epitome of a great networker. Not many are. After 4 years of going to events and meeting new businesses, or potential clients, I can surely tell you the better ways of networking.

First: Find networking events

It sounds easier than it is. There have been nights after working at my day job all day, I sit at my computer and search for events. I start falling asleep sometimes. Other times, they all come to me via email, social media or a business connection. But until you have a large amount of  business relationships, you have to be diligent about finding events that will benefit you in the way you want. Eventbrite is a good start but not a one stop shop.

Second: Speaking up & Being confident

It is intimidating to be in a room full of professionals and try to stand out. It is easier when you have a person with you to help start a conversation with someone, but don't depend on them. Your voice has to be heard. Even if it is just saying your name, be confident in your business and your brand (which is you). If you don't do these, people will brush you off.

Third: Have business cards with you

Yes, this is an obvious one but many times they are forgotten. I have been guilty of this one. Therefore, IF it does happen, make a contact in your phone for yourself. You can even place an image, which should be your logo. Then when you meet someone and want to give them your card, email or text them that contact. This is also great for when you run out of business cards during an event.

Fourth: Always get info for the person if you're interested

DO NOT walk away from someone you're really interested in working with, without getting any contact info from them. Always have a pen in your bag. You can grab an email, phone number, website, something. Don't depend on them contacting you.

Fifth: Follow Up

One of the things I am backed up on is connecting with everyone on Linkedin. It is important. But I do make sure I email people/companies within 24-48 hours of meeting them at an event. Especially if I am interested in working with them.

In honor of Jimmy, I want to add one more thing. When you are networking, don't be selfish. Don't try pushing your service or product on someone just because they are at the same event as you. Guess what? Everyone has a product or service they want to push, so they can pay the bills. Yours is not the most important. Something that Jimmy did, that I also like to do, was connecting businesses and entrepreneurs to each other. You may not be what they are looking for, but you may know someone who is. That's networking at it's best! I absolutely love being the middle person to help put two companies in touch with each other or getting someone else a client. Helping others is just as rewarding as helping yourself. Yeah, you still have that student loan payment due and no new clients, but I believe in karma in business as well as in life. Try it. Think of the entrepreneurs and partners you can put in touch with each other, and then do it! You'll be addicted.

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