Posted: Mon 21st Aug 2023
Business networking is a really important tool for entrepreneurs, and networking events can be a great way to get your business's name out there and grow your enterprise.
When done well, networking can be a really effective marketing and prospecting tool for your enterprise. But it can be difficult to know how to make strong connections with other like-minded entrepreneurs, particularly if you're new to it all.
Here are our top five business networking tips to help you get started.
Business networking top tips
1. Recommend a friend
Business networking is all about what you can offer other people. So keep an ear open for what people are looking for – whether it's a good web design agency, an accountant or a cost-cutting tip.
If your contact's needs line up with your business's expertise, you could be in for a sale.
But you should also be mindful of any other networking opportunities you might have to put a new contact in touch with someone you know. So try to think of some of your existing contacts who could help out your new contacts, and vice versa.
By making connections with people, putting them in touch with each other and offering recommendations and referrals, there's a good chance that they will remember you and return the favour!
2. Show that you're interested
Many entrepreneurs find it easy to talk about their own enterprises. But it's a real skill to be able to listen to other small business owners speak about their experiences, so you can ask the right questions.
If you find yourself struggling to ask a question, stick to the five Ws:
Who: How many people are working in the business?
What: What do they do that's different to other businesses in their sector? You could also ask fellow entrepreneurs what challenges or issues they've had since they started up, and how they've overcome them.
When: When did they decide to start their business?
Where: Where do they run their business from?
How: How do they work? Are there any tips or tricks they use to run their business effectively?
Why: Why did they decide to start up the way they did? Is there anything in particular that inspired them to start their own business?
And when you do get the chance to talk about yourself, have a clear understanding of what you do and why. It might be worth rehearsing a few sentences about your company and its products and services, as long as it doesn't sound too robotic when you deliver it to other people.
When you're talking about your business, focus on what you can offer to other entrepreneurs, and what makes your company different from the competition. And make eye contact!
3. Remember their name
Remembering people's names and something about them is a crucial part of any networking strategy. It shows that you value your contacts and have paid attention to them.
It might seem like a simple piece of advice, but it can be easy to forget a person's name, especially when you're meeting them for the first time. Fortunately, there are several ways to help you remember it, so you can bring that person into your business network:
Repeat their name silently to yourself when they first introduce themselves.
Use their name when you talk to them.
Try to use their name in conversation with other people.
Take their business card and write down something about them on it.
4. Be positive
No-one likes a moaner, so be positive when you talk to people. If you can provide an encouraging and enthusiastic point of view, people are more likely to remember you as a good contact.
By that same token, if you have some interesting views and insights to share, other people are also likely to look forward to talking to you if you both attend a business event in the future.
5. Follow up
Good follow-up is also an essential part of keeping your business relationships alive. This could mean sending a brief email when you get back to the office or setting up an informal meeting to talk further about a possible collaboration.
But while it's certainly important to follow up on a new contact soon after you meet them, keeping the communication going is a key element of building relationships.
Staying in regular contact with your new acquaintances will almost certainly help to strengthen your professional network and develop your business community. It doesn't matter if it takes the form of a phone call, an email, a text message or a face-to-face meeting. All contact is effective when it comes to networking, so make sure you stay in touch!
Keeping good records of your new contacts and prospective leads is crucial to keeping in touch with them regularly. Particularly if you network a lot and attend functions where you meet many new people each time.
So make sure that you spend a bit of time after each event recording their details, including:
their contact number (which could be their desk phone, mobile number or both)
their email address
the name of their business and what they do
where you met them
By doing this, you'll be able to find the details of your business contacts quickly and easily.