Being able to effectively network is one of the most important skills you can develop to move your company forward. Attending a national or industry trade show as well as local and regional business expos are a great opportunity to expand your brand awareness, forge new alliances and drive your future growth. So, why are so many small business owners and entrepreneurs failing when they get the chance to shine?
- Perhaps the most notable blunder is a lack of preparation. Who are you? What do you do? Why should I care? How are you going to be helpful to people you talk with? Networking is about establishing relationships. It’s not about a sales presentation or cold call hard sell. Doing that during a networking event makes you look desperate. Have your thirty second elevator pitch already prepared and then go with the flow of things and see how the interaction develops.
- It’s all about getting to know other entrepreneurs and to hear about what they do. It is looking for a proper fit between your company and another with respect to growth and a win-win situation. Not everyone at the event will fall into your parameters so don’t feel like you have to talk to everyone at the event. It is too exhausting and it will simply spray your focus.
- Once certain painstaking connections have been made, the one thing that causes it all to fall apart is that there is no follow up. The opportunity has been presented and you willing allow it to slip away. You must have a system in place that allows you to effectively follow up these hard earned leads. This is more especially true if you get a referral from a contact you made. If there is no substantial follow up, you have just been wasting your time.
- In the end, it is all about your preparation and your practice. Be friendly and be conversational. Leave the hard sell and the sleazy stereotype of the greasy salesperson in the dumpster on the way in. If you are an introvert, you must get some training and you must practice feeling secure in these pressure situations. Introverts, unlike the extroverts that feed off of this type of energy, are quickly drained so make the most of your opportunities to expand your business and build your brand.
-Written by Kevin Sawyer