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Encompass® Agency Insights

Five Smart Networking Tips to Grow Your Business

people networking .

Growth is the lifeblood and top priority of a business. For most small business owners that don't have investors or massive revenue streams, maintaining a solid growth rate can be a challenge. Yet even if your business isn't full of resources, you can still facilitate growth through smart strategies—and one of those is great networking.

While many business owners realize this, they sometimes lack the expertise to truly maximize the power of networking. Let's take a closer look at some smart tips you can follow to help you get the most from your networking efforts.

Fully Commit to the Process

Whether you're an introvert or extrovert, meeting new people in formal settings can be a challenge. To be truly successful at networking, it's important to fully commit to selling yourself and forging new relationships. It may seem like a tall order at first, but learning to network is a skill like anything else, and it does get easier to do over time. You should also recognize that some natural introversion can be an asset, as we often tune out salespeople who are conventionally loud or aggressive, preferring the more listening-oriented approach of an introvert.

To completely engage in a networking event you should arrive early, walk through the room, and make an effort to introduce yourself. Attending events only to speak to a handful of people (or those you already know) is not a productive way to sell your business. Be yourself, rather than an exaggerated version of yourself.

Have a Detailed Game Plan

In networking, due diligence is essential, as showing up at an event without any sort of plan will lead to wasted time and opportunities. If attending a networking event is in your plan, you can use platforms such as LinkedIn or sites specific to your industry to find those key events to attend. Be sure to set goals for yourself before attending these events, such as a certain number of cards exchanged or people spoken with. Before you go, identify the people you want to meet.

One good way to do this is to do some work ahead of the event. Find out who is attending, and do some basic, social media research. You may find you share an alma mater or favorite sports team or TV show with another guest—a great conversational gambit you can deploy.

Get to Know Your Neighbors

While professional gatherings are great networking opportunities, you can also benefit from less formal settings. Make an effort to develop relationships with other small-business owners in the area. When friends, family members, or customers of these business owners need help or advice, your business might be the one they recommend. Additionally, you might discover cross-promotional or marketing opportunities arising from these neighborhood relationships. Being perceived as a pillar of the community is a definite competitive advantage.

Never Use a Hard Sell

Relationships you make through networking can be vitally important to the development of your business. Yet few things will turn a prospective contact off faster than a hard sell. Instead of leading with a sales pitch, get to know people as individuals first. If there is an opportunity to turn the conversation to business organically, you can take it, but otherwise, keep things light and enjoyable.

Remember, the most powerful networking relationships are the deepest ones, where the bond is not merely transactional but supported by genuine affection. These are the contacts who will go to bat for you when the time comes.

Always Use a Personal Approach

At times networking can feel a bit impersonal, so putting a personal touch on things is usually appreciated. Look your contacts in the eye, use their names, and go beyond stiff formalities. When exchanging business cards, for example, jot down a quick personalized note to make it more memorable.

These days, you want to be yourself and show your own personality. When people get more tailored attention and insight into who you are, they are more likely to become interested and look to develop a relationship with you and your business.

Follow up and Maintain

It's not enough to attend a networking event and introduce yourself to every business owner on the block—you need to devote just as much energy to follow-up. Reach out periodically via email to check in. Offer assistance wherever you can. Establish contact on social media.

Remember, networking relationships are like any other relationship—they need to be tended and nurtured, otherwise they'll wither and become obsolete. So be sure you do the work to cultivate your networked relationships.

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