4 Networking Tips for Entrepreneurs
To an entrepreneur, the importance of networking is second to none because business is always about creating new connections and keeping the old ones alive. However, in a highly competitive world, this is easier said than done since everyone is looking to do the same. Knowing and brushing up on a few basics might just give you that edge though, which is precisely what we will discuss next.
Put Connection Before Sales
The people in power already know that you are coming to them with a motive in mind, but you don’t have to make it obvious. Instead of trying to sell whatever it is that you need them to buy, concentrate on forming a good bond with them first. Talk more about the organization the person is involved in, or you could even try to get to know him/her personally, if there’s an opportunity for that. Depending on the situation, any of the following paths can be taken as far as bringing up your own interests are concerned:
- You can bring up the topic directly, but refrain from lingering on it for long
- Mention the topic contextually, but once again, don’t linger on it for too long
- Just introduce the idea and reserve the rest for the next meet (if you can secure one)
Present a Gift of Value
Making a contact is only half the job; the other half is maintaining that relationship until you need a favor from them, and that’s where a corporate gift comes in. Such a gift can either be something that holds great value, or it can end up being just another one of the multiple other useless gifts that key individuals in the industry receive on a regular basis. To find a gift of value, keep the following points in mind:
- Eye-catching gifts such as customized lapel pins always get attention without being too extravagant
- A generic gift that has no relevance to the person or the organization he/she represents will seem insincere
- If you are going to ask for a big favor, the gift should hold value that’s somewhat proportionate
- Wait till you get to know the party better, so that you can offer a relevant gift
Focus Your Efforts on What Matters
A lot of young entrepreneurs believe that it’s important to maintain a good relationship with as many people as they possibly can, but that’s not practical. Each of us has a limited amount of time, money and other resources, so it only makes sense to focus those resources on relevant prospects only. Avoid irrelevant events and people that have no interest or ability to help your cause. Instead, focus your efforts on the contacts that actually matter and you will likely get a much better return from your networking investments.
As mentioned earlier, making a connection is only half the job, and unless you are putting in the right amount of effort to follow up on your contacts, you will lose the advantage that you have for a short period of time post making the initial contact. Consider the following tips to follow up and maintain your contacts:
- Send an email or text the next day regarding how much you enjoyed and appreciated the chat
- Instead of asking for a favor, see if you can’t offer something useful to them right after
- Try connecting on professional social networking channels such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor
The important thing to remember while forming any business relationship is that no such connection can be one-sided, and therefore, it is always better to have at least something that you can bargain with. Even if you don’t have anything right now, the promise of a future where you will be in a position to help your connections should be there.