Unless you’re one of those über confident people who can easily work a crowd and love it, networking can be one of the more daunting aspects of running a business. But simply not connecting with industry professionals or other businesses, is not a good idea. It will prevent you from leveraging some valuable resources, leave you with little support in times of need, and can stifle the growth and development of your business.
Even if networking does not come naturally to you, there are nevertheless several things you can do to make the whole process more manageable. Finding an effective combination of self-promotion and relationship building may be hard, but can come with a little practice; the same is true of putting aside any fears of rejection.
Even if the thought of networking makes your heart race, here are four easy business networking tips that anyone can do:
1. Be yourself. The biggest, surprisingly unspoken, rule of networking is to stop trying to network in the first place. Both online and in face-to-face interactions, people will be more receptive to you if you don’t try to be something (or someone) you’re not. Be true to yourself and be genuine in your efforts to connect to others. Every person has his or her strong points and areas of expertise. Find out what they are and put those forward.
2. Focus on building trust. These days any mention of business networking is often quickly followed by trust. For example, even though many studies point the fact that consumers spend inordinate amounts of time on social networks, such as Facebook or Twitter, they aren’t exactly sitting there waiting to be sold to. In fact it’s quite the opposite- many have become jaded at best and down-right irritated at worst at the attempts various companies make to promote their products and services via social media platforms.
If you want to get in on the action, you should first to look for ways to offer assistance, solve a problem, or provide other constructive input. Once your intended targets recognize the value of what you have to offer, they will be much more likely to do business with you- whether online or off. Moreover, the minute you sincerely try to help someone, or at least point a person in right direction, you’ve already begun the process of establishing a connection. It’s one of the biggest “ice breakers” there is.
3. Join like-minded groups of people. If you want to be successful at networking then you have to be seen. Period. But, you should specifically seek out groups, forums, and meet-ups with people who share your passions, world views, or some other connecting factor. Why is this important? Because it gives you an “in,” some common ground upon which you can go about building future relationships.
4. Be educated about those around you. One of the fundamental truths to being successful in any relationship is that you need to be aware of the other person. What does this person like and dislike? What makes this person happy, sad? In your business relationships, before going into any situation where you expect to network, make it a point to do a little research on the people or organizations you want reach out to or at least express an openness to want to learn about them. Being too self-centered will not get you so far in your networking efforts.
In short, if you want to be a successful business networker then be yourself, be helpful, and be open to appreciating what others have to offer.