15 Jun Small Talk – How to Network for a Small Business
There are some of us that just love to talk. On the phone, on the subway, in the dry cleaners line. And that’s fabulous. They probably have no trouble walking into a hotel meeting room full of strangers and hawking their wares.
But when you need to network for a small business, you might be less than excited to pack up your business cards and work the room. Still, connecting with people live (yes, it’s still done) is a great way to make new contacts, get some advice, and generate leads.
Here are some tips to help you network for a small business :
Just say yes. Like the gym, getting through the door is often the hardest part. If someone invites you to an event, try not to immediately turn down the opportunity. For one thing, you’ll at least know the person who invited you. Second, it’s rarely as bad as you really think.
Most people are reluctant to don a name tag and walk up to strangers. You won’t be the one person who’s nervous. And like most things, with practice comes skill. With skill comes confidence. And with confidence you’ll eventually stop pretending to read your phone and actually, you know, network.
Be prepared. You can’t conquer all of the butterflies in your stomach, but you can at least carry a net (or, whatever). Make sure that you have enough business cards, with your information updated, and no misspellings.
If appropriate, bring along a few flyers or other materials (but not a ton – you don’t want to be weighed down literally and emotionally). And have some ice breakers ready in your mind, which means you need to . . .
Know something. Seriously – no one wants to talk to someone whose answer to everything is “I don’t know”. So have a few icebreakers at hand that are neutral (in other words, no religion or political topics) but easy to start a conversation around.
The local sports game, the weather forecast (although, ugh), the latest episode of a few popular television shows. You don’t need to launch into your business right away – or theirs – as that can be annoying or even irritating. Start with something that’s not so shop-related. And when appropriate you can then shift into your elevator pitch.
Know your business. That sounds obvious. What we really mean is know how to sound like you know your business.
[bctt tweet=”Before you attend a networking event, prepare a thirty-second answer to what your business is and what makes it great.” username=””]
Then have a 90 second version in case they ask to know more. If they’re still interested, then it’s a good time to offer a business card or ask to connect over a site like LinkedIn.
Have your “other” network in order. That is, your social network. As much as there is real value to meeting people face-to-face, online connections are the easy way to sustain those relationships later. Make sure you have recent posts on your Facebook page, or helpful tips tweeting on your Twitter account before starting to network for a small business.
Yes, people still use business cards, but if you have your social networking accounts printed on them, it’s easy for people to start following you and stay in touch long after they’ve lost the card.
Trying to network for a small business doesn’t have to be nerve-wracking.
You can take active measures to keep small talk from becoming a big stressor. Few people love to work a room (and often those that do, are pretty annoying). But people who can learn over time to be approachable, relaxed and interesting, find that the better they get at networking, the more others will want to talk to them. Which, of course, is kind of the point.