Posts Tagged ‘Networking’


Transitioning from Networking to Relationships

One of the biggest assets for any business isn’t on its balance sheet—it’s the entrepreneur’s network.  Networks become a valuable source of customer, service provider and even employee referrals and leads. 

However, many people go straight from a networking event to expecting favors or other immediate results.  Like good friendships, network relationships require care and attention.  And like a fine wine, they take time to become robust.

After you network, use the following five recommendations to help you to build solid, mutually-beneficial and long-term network connections.

Take Notes Immediately

The back of a business card provides a blank slate where you can take the notes that you need to begin developing a personal relationship.  When you first meet new contacts, they can reveal quite a bit about whom they are, what they need and how they can help you.  As you jot down key points, make note of any ideas that you have for information that you can share to demonstrate your value to them.  Keep track of this information to help you to know the best way to connect in the future.

Make First Contact Quickly

You do not have a relationship simply because you walk away with a handful of business cards.  Networkers can forget each other’s names in just a few days, so your first meaningful contact happens when you pick up the phone or send an email.

Within a few days of your initial meetings, reach out to remind your new acquaintance who you are and why you are excited about the new relationship.  This is not the time to start asking for favors, but it might be a great time to share a bit more about each other and confirm how your association can be mutually beneficial.

Feed Your Network

I love it when one of my contacts sends me a link to information about our common business interests or even hobbies.  I don’t even mind some good natured trash-talking about the performance (or lack thereof) of my favorite sports team.  Sending valuable and relevant information is a great way to show your commitment to building a good two-way relationship.    

Of course, you need to strike a balance between maintaining regular contact and subjecting someone to information overload—I fondly refer to this as the fine line between being “persistent” and “annoying”.  Only send information that applies specifically to your contact’s interests and concerns.  Articles you send that solve their unique problems are like gold.  Generic information or off-color jokes are like spam.  If you can proactively offer valuable assistance to your contacts, they will want to do the same for you.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

A good network provides mutual assistance in times of need and feeling free to ask for help is an important part of the relationship.  Personally, I see these requests as recognition of my accomplishments and expertise and I welcome the opportunity to help when I can, if it’s a small, clear and easy ask.  So don’t be shy when you need to ask for help.  Just make sure that you express how much you respect their skills and experience — and remind them of ways that you can help them in the future.

If the request is a significant one, also offer to pay them for their time to show that you value it and them. 

Say Thank You — and Mean it

Whether your contacts generously share information or step in to resolve a specific issue, show your gratitude in a personal way.  While a thank-you email might be nice, you can probably do something more meaningful.  At one end of the spectrum, writing a personal recommendation on LinkedIn or even tweeting or re-tweeting a compliment that brings them more business might be some valuable ways to say thanks.  But when someone brings you a lucrative new business contract or enhances your business in any significant way, an invitation out to lunch or even a gift can be an appropriate display of gratitude.

Making quality connections can be the difference between minor and major business success, so follow the steps above and lather-rinse-repeat as necessary.

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Work Your Biz Wednesday: Resources for Women

Whether you're a woman just starting out in a new business or you're established and looking to grow, it's important to educate yourself about any resources that can help your small business.


Work Your Biz Wednesday: 5 Things I’ve Learned

Happy 15th Anniversary to the Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson! Check out her list of the top 5 things she has learned over the years, and follow her on Twitter at @SmallBizLady.

From March 5-25, Melinda is giving away a prize every business day to help support your small business venture! Apply to the "15 Days of Giveaways" contest today at www.succeedasyourownboss.com!

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Work Your Biz Wednesday: 6 Reasons Why You Should Contact Your Customers

The most valuable thing in any business is your existing customers. Here are 6 reasons why you should contact them from Melinda Emerson, the Small Biz Lady.


Networking for People Who Hate Networking

I may appear regularly on radio and TV, but I’m not all that different from other people when it comes to networking.  The whole concept of establishing any relationship with total strangers and then converting them into treasured resources can be overwhelming.   Still, with a clear understanding of what networking is really all about, anyone — from the life of the party to the shyest wallflower — can develop a great business network.

Here are four tips that can even help those of us who hate networking develop the valuable business relationships they need.

Leverage Your Current Network

If you have family and friends, you already have a network.  But you probably don’t recognize that these people can help with your business issues.  If you need assistance solving a specific problem or finding new customers, talk to the people that you know. Remember that they have connections, too. A simple introduction is all that you need to grow your own network.

But don’t stop with your close contacts.  You probably interact with many people every day, and you know them well enough to ask for help.  One person that I know has been going to the same spa for years.  One time, she brought some business brochures and asked if she could place them on the reception counter next to other promotional items that they already had on display.  With their permission, she got some calls from people already primed to purchase her services while avoiding the pain of cold-calling.

Do Not Fear Networking Events

The thought of facing countless people that you don’t know may seem overwhelming, but a little advance planning can simplify the effort.  When you find an event that you believe may help you, start by contacting the organizer at least a few days before the meeting. That person can make introductions for you ahead of time through email or social networking.

On the day of the event, you may enter a room with hundreds of people, but you know which people to seek out. When you introduce yourself in person, you will instantly see a friendly look of recognition on their faces.   You can feel more comfortable conversing with new friends, rather than trying to break the ice with total strangers.

Leverage Social Media

Social Media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook have blurred the lines between real relationships and virtual connections. But these tools eliminate the need for face-to-face or phone contact as a preamble to establishing business contacts.  Set up one or more free accounts and start making connections.

If you pay regular attention to your social media accounts, you will get to know quite a bit about your new friends. Then, when you find someone with mutual interests and concerns, consider making your conversations more private to find out if you can help each other in your networking efforts.

Aim for Quality Over Quantity

????????????????????????????????????????Networking is not an all-or-nothing proposition.  It is better to find a few people with whom you can develop a mutually-beneficial relationship than to collect an impressive stack of business cards.  So, even if you are at a conference with thousands of attendees, find ways to do your networking in small chunks.

For example, everyone has to eat, so ask a few people sitting near you in a late-morning session to get together for lunch.  Instantly, you create a small group of people who share your interests without the embarrassment of trying to ask a single person to go out with you. You may or may not become lifelong friends with your new lunch buddies, but you will know that each business card has real meaning for you.

Whether you are an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere between, you may have discovered your own tricks to increasing your list of valued business contacts. Please share them below.


Work Your Biz Wednesday: 6 Tips to Better Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a great way to raise money for a small business. Find out how to get started from The Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson.


Work Your Biz Wednesday: How to Build a Network to Grow your Small Business

Are you building your network and obtaining new referrals? Learn how with these 4 tips from The Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson.


Work Your Biz Wednesday: 5 Ways to Make More Money in 2014

Make 2014 the best year ever for your small business! This week's Work Your Biz Wednesday with Melinda Emerson offers five tips to make your business more money in the upcoming year.


5 Ways to Improve Your Networking Skills

Networking1Successful entrepreneurs are master networkers. They keep business cards for years, write down names, and follow up with potential leads. They also touch base with contacts frequently just to check-in, not necessarily to solicit business. It is this diligence that leads to referrals and long-term, mutually beneficial business relationships.

Need to brush up on your networking skills? Here, Margo Geller, owner of Margo Geller and Associates, a business consultancy in Atlanta, offers her top tips for becoming a master networker.

Stick to the 70 percent rule

Networking events are a dime a dozen. The key to finding the best prospects, according to Geller, is to focus on who will attend each event. Do this by asking the event coordinator for the guest list ahead of time. If that doesn’t work, ask for the list from the last event to use as a frame of reference.

“Don’t waste time going to events unless 70 percent or more of the people in attendance will be qualified, potential, ideal clients for you,” she says. “It’s about quality, not quantity. You need to be fishing in spot ponds.”

Arrive early

Even if you know everyone on the guest list, Geller recommends arriving early to an in-person networking event. Grab your nametag and stand by the registration table to see people as they come in. That way, you will know whom to target first.

Check your feelings

Have you had a rotten day? If so, stay in the car and repeat positive affirmations to yourself before walking into a networking event, suggests Geller.

“If you are walking around an event and someone senses that you’re not in a good place, they will not be drawn to talking to you,” she says. “Make sure you feel good and look good because your internal attitude will shine through.”

Practice active listening

You’ve arrived at an event and identified the person you want to speak with. After approaching them in a pleasant manner and asking a few questions about their business, let them talk to you and listen intently. As Geller explains, it is more important to listen than to talk in networking situations.

“At the end of the conversation say that you enjoyed meeting them and ask if it would be OK if you called them tomorrow to follow up,” she says.

Run a business association or networking group

Getting involved in your local business association or networking group is the best way to establish credibility as someone people might want to do business with.

“Even better, shoot for a top position in the association,” Geller says. “People are likely to respect you if you lead the organization.” 




 
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