It’s not a secret that networking is extremely important, especially for small business owners, but it can be a hard skill to master for a number of reasons. Finding the right places to network, keeping others interested in what you have to say, and maintaining the connection after the fact aren’t the easiest feats for small business owners without the resources of a big company. But by following these tips, you can improve your networking skills and start connecting with the best of them.
Where to Network
Finding networking events is a big hurdle for a lot of people new to networking. Fortunately, sites such as Eventbrite, Meetup.com, and The Networking Gurus can help give you a better idea of what events are near you. Keep in mind, it doesn’t always have to be event-based networking. Joining a business alliance in your community can help you build connections with other small business owners. Doing a quick Google search for business alliances near you can help you find one that fits your needs.
The Big Three
When networking, it’s important to be as friendly and approachable as possible by paying attention to the big three. Smile, stance, and eye contact!
Whether you’re a big smiler or not, having one will help your networking efforts drastically. Frowns or yawning can display the idea that you do not want to be there or you’re bored. Smiling will help others feel more comfortable approaching you and lead to more networking connections.
Having a proper stance and “open arms” is another important trait that shows others you’re interested in the conversation. Keeping your arms crossed can make people feel intimidated or that you don’t care about being there.
Also, it’s been shown that mirroring the body language of the person you’re talking to helps you connect better with them. A study done by the American Journal of Psychological Research showed sales clerks achieved higher sales and more positive evaluations by mirroring their potential clients.
Lastly, eye contact is probably the most important way to show you’re ready to network. Quantified Impressions, a communications analytics company, found on average, people make eye contact 30-60% of the time during a conversation but keeping eye contact for 60-70% of the time helps create an emotional connection that’s critical in networking.
Business Cards are Key
Business cards help people remember you and your business and serve as a physical reminder of the best way to get in contact with you. 90% of business owners reported that using their business cards has led them to generating new business. Handing your card out could be the difference between a new client and somebody forgetting you as soon as you turn around.
Staying in touch after creating a new connection can be one of the hardest parts of networking, but it’s also one of the most important. Following up after the initial networking can help make them feel valued and turn that one-off connection into a lengthy business relationship. Most small business owners struggle to find time to reconnect, but multitasking can be a way around this. Using your coffee and lunch breaks to meet with others can help create that time and if you can’t meet face-to-face, you can also follow-up with a phone call!
Need help standing out at your next networking event? Partner with Proforma to see the wide range of unique business cards we can create that will help you leave a lasting impression. Contact us today to see how Proforma can help you with your networking essentials.