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Do you own a small business? Are you constantly told that you need to “network,” but you’re so annoyed with that word that you simply avoid it? You are not alone. You’re also in luck because we spoke with other small business owners who’ve had the same experience.
Most negative experiences with networking start with people who only use networking to forcefully self-promote. While some people do abuse their networks, networking the right away involves a positive exchange between people. In other words, successful networking starts with the right attitude. Even if you cringed while reading that last sentence, we promise that the following tips will be completely painless.
Here are the top three tips any experienced business owner will tell you to follow to make your networking experience a success:
Perhaps the most annoying part of networking is having to explain what you do at networking events. Rather than fumble around and think later about what you should have said, prepare for this scenario by writing an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is simply a polished, concise introduction of yourself and what you do. If you’re just starting out as a business owner, and your business is still evolving, simply include your ultimate vision for your business.
It’s important that you don’t try to cover too much in an elevator pitch. Focus on the basics without making sound too canned. Practice your elevator pitch with a friend or colleague, and ask them to come up with some questions that others may ask to prepare yourself for these as well. Think of it like preparing for a mini interview.
The most important thing to remember about networking is that it’s an exchange — it’s a give and take relationship. The best business relationships are ones where both parties benefit from the connection. When you’re at a networking event, don’t become completely preoccupied with promoting yourself. Instead, make an effort to engage in conversations with other people, and listen carefully to what they have to say.
Active listening involves making good eye contact and verbally responding to what the other person has to say. If you don’t have the best memory, jot down a few notes immediately following your discussion. When you’re meeting a lot of new people, it can be all too easy to forget names or what you talked about.
While this one may seem obvious, it’s amazing how many people forget to hand out a business card. Even in a digital age, a physical card makes it so much easier for people to get in touch with you in the future. It’s even better if the information on your business card is simple and memorable. Don’t overcrowd the card with too much information. Some indication of what you do along with your name, number and email or web address is plenty of information.
One great way to make your contact information more memorable is to use a custom phone number. Vanity, or custom 800-numbers are 75 percent more likely to be remembered compared to a numeric number. Personalized business phone numbers also give your business credibility. For example, if you’re a bike shop, and your phone number is something like 800-NEW-BIKE, then this projects to consumers and other professionals that you’re the go-to business in that area.
Hopefully, we’ve given you the tools to start networking, even if it seemed incredibly painful before. If you’re interested in getting a custom 800 number, we can help with that too. Use our Find a Number tool to search for a certain number, or browse through options by industry. Whatever industry you’re in, a vanity 800 number is a great way to enhance your brand image and make sure your business is remembered. Plus, we are affordable for even the smallest of budgets.
At 800response, we also offer other lead generation, tracking, and interaction analytics tools. Contact us to learn more about all our services.