Every new business has the same problem: Nobody knows they exist but remedying that problem isn’t as difficult as it seems. If you’re still weeks or even months away from opening your business, there’s no reason that the advertising can’t start now and that advertising will come in the form of networking.
Networking costs little or no money. You can do it through social media, talking to friends and family, handing out flyers, or even doing community outreach. If you’re opening a financial advising firm, you could offer a free seminar to a local nursing home, speak at a school inservice, or conduct a community roundtable at a local library.
However, networking in its purest sense is learning to strike up a conversation with somebody else. Maybe you are attending a Christmas party, going out with new friends, or attending a special event. Here are some ways to network without leaving a bad impression.
Do not sit on the Sidelines
If you’re waiting for people to talk to you, your only lasting impression may be that of the creepy guy that never talked to anybody. Strike up a conversation with some easy questions. You might ask what brings that person to the event, ask them about their dress or shoes, respond to something you overheard them say to somebody else, or the old standard, the weather. Breaking the ice might be the toughest part but after that, it’s easy.
Don’t Sell Them
When you’re at an event that isn’t about you, nobody wants to hear your sales pitch. Networking is first about forming a relationship and that is done by taking a genuine interest in the other person. Ask them what they do, speak about their hobbies, learn about their family. This will surely reciprocate similar questions that you can answer.
Show your Passion
When somebody asks you what you do, tell him or her about your upcoming startup. Tell them why you are passionate about your business and why you believe your business will fill a certain need. Make it short but tell them why you are doing it instead of why they should be involved.
Smile and Listen
Do not be the talker in the group. Some people like to listen to the extrovert talk but more than likely, they will feel more comfortable with you if you smile and listen. People like to talk about themselves and you will get farther by listening.
Networking is not about selling but there’s no reason you can’t ask for their contact information at the end of the night. Be genuine, passionate, and do a lot of listening. People like to do business with people they like. The best networkers know how to make people like them.