Getting the Most out of Business Networking Events

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Today we are going to talk about that one little thing people don’t like to talk about—business networking events. A lot of people think they’re useless. “Why even bother when we can just do everything online?” That is absolutely correct—if you do not want to succeed in your business.

Truth is, going to networking events can increase your sales very, very rapidly for little or no cost. Should you do them? Yes! Should you do them if you’re a 20-year-old business? Definitely.

Picking a Business Networking Event

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Let’s start off with what kind of events you should go to. There are free events and paid for events. Picking an event is more about where would the people you’re looking for be hanging out. Don’t go to an event full of scientists if you sell something that’s not scientific or something that scientists hate. Figure out where your people hang out. Do they hang out at the local Chamber of Commerce events? Do they hang out at free meetups? Where do they hang out?

We’ve been to a lot of networking events—free events, paid events, Chamber of Commerce events, Board of Trade events, inexpensive events, expensive events.  In our experience, paid events usually have a higher level of people; people more likely to do business to business type stuff. Free events tend to be more business to customer type people, or businesses that are just starting out with a little bit less money.

So if you’re selling a little bit higher ticket item, a paid event will probably get you a better audience because they’re already people that have been proven to pay for stuff, and because they’re paying for the event. It just usually gives you a different caliber of people. In the B2B, especially, paid events are awesome. In the B2C, they’re also awesome; you just get a little bit different caliber of people. Meetups are great because they’re super-specific. Meetups that cost money would, again, qualify for both.

Do’s and Don’ts of Going to Networking Events

1. Attire

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Let’s talk about something really simple—how should you look when you go to a networking event?  Basically, you want to look like the person people want to do business with. Sometimes you’re feeling a little bit slow, and you’re not really in the mood, and you know that most of the people that go to that event usually don’t wear a suit and tie (usually casual at best), so you think of going casual in your golf shirt as well. Most people won’t take you seriously in that attire.

Think about the last time you went to anywhere out in public, and you saw somebody dressed in T-shirt, jeans, and riders, unkempt, and unshaven. How do you think of that person? Do you think of him as being successful? Do you think that they can do a great job of selling you $300 an hour business consulting, or accounting, or a lawyer? Maybe they could. They could be incredibly skilled. But you’re not going to know it by looking at them. However, if you see somebody dressed in a suit, even if it’s not a really expensive one. Not necessarily a tie, but a nice shirt, cufflinks—subtle things. It can set people apart. It’s all about first impressions.

I hear it all the time at networking events as people make excuse for their poor attire, “I dress this way because I believe in comfort.” Ninety-nine percent of the time, the more you learn about the people that go on and on about comfort, and the reasons they’re going to be different, it’s always been “I wear all these crazy prints because it’s my identity.” Fair enough. They’re allowed to do that. But if you’re there to increase your sales quickly, we recommend you put your ego and yourself on the shelf, and do what’s going to attract you the highest quality and biggest numbers of people that want to interact and buy stuff from you.

2. Accessories

Let’s look at little things like accessories. We see this all the time with men and women—excessive jewelry, piercings, tattoos. The reality is you can be super proud of your tattoo, which is awesome. And, as long as you understand that having that tattoo is going to turn off 30 percent of the potential customers (and you’re okay with that), you shouldn’t change.

But if you’re about rapidly increasing your sales, which is what Small Business Dream is all about, I’d recommend covering up the tattoos, not because I hate him or love them. It’s about, “Do you turn off that one guy or one lady that might have brought you a $50,000 contract because of your tattoo pride?” Our advice is, don’t do anything that might turn away a customer.

A lot of people will prejudge, unfortunately. Personal preference is completely up to you. But when somebody has seventeen piercings on their face—tongue, lip, nose, eyebrow, earlobe—and has tattoos running up the side of his neck, it can be a little bit of a turn off. Unless they’re looking for a tattoo parlor owner or a piercing person, they’re probably not going to engage with that person. It’s just human nature. If that’s your business, you’re going to want to show off what you do. But that’s the type of clientele you’re going to attract and you’ll go to the networking events that are specific for that type of clientele

3. Dressing up for the occasion

We were at a branding event where there was a lady who sold her own custom clothes, and she went against the speaker quite strongly and saying, “Well, I wear my own clothes instead of the converting colors. I wear my super colorful clothes because then I’m my own billboard.”

She just went on and on, and he looked her right in the eyes and said, “So why are you here learning about branding to make your business better? Because, obviously, what you’re doing isn’t working as well as you thought.”

And then he asked the crowd and he said, “Hey everybody, if you met her saying that she has her own clothing brand, and you met her at a networking event, would you have trust in her? Would you have belief in her with the way she’s dressed?” And basically the whole room said “No.”

So there she was, wearing her clothes that she’s so proud of, and trying to sell online. They weren’t even bad-looking clothes. But the trust of people thinking that she’s the person to engage with for clothes in a business setting was not there. So her ‘billboard,’ as she thought it was, might be appropriate to some events like a fashion-centered event, but not necessarily the right thing to do in a business networking event where, maybe, she’s looking for distributors of her clothes.

We’re not here to judge people for what they do. We’re simply saying, if you want to accelerate your sales as fast as possible, dress the part of the networking event you’re going to. It’s critical.

4. Blending in with the crowd

It’s really hard to overdress, but you can definitely underdress for the event. Still, you can overdress. For instance, don’t show up to a networking event in a tuxedo and tails, unless everyone else is in tuxedo and tails. The rule of thumb is, you want to be at par with the speaker of an event. But what about business tycoons like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs? These guys dress the way they want to dress and it doesn’t seem to impact their businesses at all. The simple answer is, when you have that many ‘zeros’ in your bank account, you can dress the way you want to.

Why Go to Networking Events?

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Why would somebody that’s in business for 20 years and trips across us with our Small Business Sales Blueprint tell people to start going to networking events?  Why would they even think that that’s a good idea? What are reasons someone in business for 20 years might want to go reengage face to face?

Stay top-of-mind to your clients. Let’s look at seasoned companies. There’s always new people coming out. It’s branding. It’s getting your face known. We go to networking events and we’ve been doing it year after year. People are seeing us year after year at the events. That trust, that rapport starts to get built up because we’re still there. We’re still doing the same thing. They’re seeing your face over and over again, and the familiarity creates trust. And trust eventually creates referrals and puts you now top of mind, and that turns in sales.

Test things out in the real world. If you are that person who has a 20-year-old company or a-10-year old company, and you’re trying to find a way to increase your business quickly, the biggest advantage of going to a networking event is you can start testing out the things you say online, in your store, in your interactions on a whole bunch of people all at once. Say, you’re thinking of a tagline for a video online. You can go, “Hi I’m Dennis. I’m with Small Business Dream, and we are the number one global small business sales experts,” and I can look someone in the eye as I deliver that message and see if it resonates or not. It works really well for testing headlines of email campaigns and all kinds of things. And if you go there and you just smash it (you go to ten networking events in a month), you’re going to have people talking about you.

Connect with other businesses. We go to networking events to meet people. Are we going to thenetworking event to sell people? Nope. Are we going there to make friends? Yes. However, we’re not really out there just to make friends, but with an ulterior motive to make a ‘business friend.’ Don’t get engaged in a conversation which has nothing to do with business, because that means missing out on a bunch of other people that might want to know about your business. You need a ‘sniper-like’ approach where your plan is to make friends, but with a motive. You’re not there just to make friends and hope they’d ask you what you do and come. You’re there to generate enough interest in what you do from everyone you talk to that they might want to bring a friend to your business.

Get as many contacts as possible. You got to stay on point that you’re there to do business. The point is, don’t get into ‘pitch mode.’ You want to create the curiosity of what you do and then leave it alone. Go on to the next person, unless they engage you. And even if they engage you, be mindful how long you engage with that person. Remember, you only got an hour of networking in that event. Do you really want to get into a fifteen-minute pitch to one guy that probably isn’t going to buy from you anyways? Or do you want to make half the room know who you are and what you do so they can bring you people?

Business Cards or No Business Cards?

Now to the question, “Business cards, or no business cards?” There’s a couple different camps on that, and they seem to be getting more and more divided. I’ll preface this within my opinion. If you’re at a speed networking event, business cards are a must. You just can’t write down people’s information or connect with them in a meaningful way fast enough if you have eight people sharing their 30-second story with each other before moving on to the next table and doing it again.  It depends on what kind of a networking event you’re at.

I’m still of the camp that having a business card is helpful. But, of course, we at Small Business Dream also understood that a lot of Millennials aren’t so much thinking the same way, and there’s lots of cases where we just plain ran out. So, we actually created the Small Business Button.

“The Button”

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The Button is a free app which you can online from your appropriate store. Here’s how to use the Button app:

Let’s say you meet somebody at a networking event. You could say to him, “Hi Dennis. Good to meet you,” and simply ask his number. Type his name in the app and say, “Push the button,” (it will make a cool sound). It will auto-populate a pre-formatted message which then goes to your text messaging platform. Push the ‘send text’ and it sends that text message.  You can get it free if you go to It will automatically take you from your mobile device to your appropriate store to download the free Button app.

What’s really good about the Button app is it’s tactile. It also makes an impression (you can even change the button top to be your company instead of our company). It can be a bit of a conversation piece. People love it, they share it with others—it’s a really cool way when you don’t have business cards, or you just want to do something different that makes people remember you.

Just remember to always make them push the button; don’t do it for them. Show the phone and say, “Push the button.” Next time around, they’ll remember you as “The Button Guy.” It creates a memorable ‘hook’ to remind people of you.

Get Down to Your Data—Fast!

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Another thing that happens in networking events is people will often end up with a stack—great big stack—of business cards. You go home, and they go on to your desk beside your computer. That was a Monday event. Tuesday, they move a little further away, and then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and then finally into the circular filing cabinet—that’s the garbage—because they’re no good by now.

The worst part is, that’s your ‘gold.’ That’s the data you work hard with. So, what you really need to be doing if you’re going to be at business networking events, is have a proper introduction email and take the time to send it. And, of course, nobody has the time to send 30 emails. So, get yourself some sort of a system.

We recommend as your sales and marketing automation solution. Get some kind of automation where you can, in our case, take a picture of the card, enter some details about who they are, it goes to a live transcriber, it comes back, it triggers your email, they can be entered into a series, and all these kinds of cool stuff. Have something that collects that data and sends them a welcome email.

Don’t blast them with everything you do. You’re not there to sell them; you’re there to make a connection. The easiest way to connection is say, “Hey, nice meeting you at that event. Do you know any other cool events that are coming up?” Just ask some information. Create that relationship. Don’t immediately go into, “I’m Dennis, and I saw this, and I saw that, yada yada yada.” That’s what the people that do it wrong do, and that doesn’t actually further your relationships. That will actually make them avoid you at the next networking event you go to. You’ll actually see them, sort of, staying as far out of your orbit as possible when you do that. So don’t do it wrong; do it right.

Final Thoughts

So, let’s wrap up with everything we’ve learned thus far.”Dress for success,” look good, make sure that you’re connecting with as many people as possible. Make your 40-second elevator pitch down. Get your words down—what to say, who your ideal client is, what you do.

The worst thing you can say is, “Oh, I’m a financial planner.” You watch, like Moses parting the Red Sea. People will not come near you. And that’s only because they know what comes next. But if instead you said something as simple as, “You know what? I’m a financial planner and I focus on people in the IT community that run companies between one and four million dollars. Do you know anyone that might need my help?”

Everyone who knows somebody like that is likely to refer them to you because now you’re interesting. Now you have a specialized expertise that the other financial planners in the room don’t have. So, don’t think, “The broader you make it, the more people you will get,” because your target isn’t the people in the room. Your target is some people they know who decide that you’re interesting and specific enough to bring someone to you.

There’s a cool little trick we want to share with you using LinkedIn which is a hybrid of online and person-to-person, face to face networking. If you get access to the microphone, or you get to stand up and you get to say who you are, what you’re doing, you can get access to ‘controlling the crowd,’ so to speak, Craig’s little LinkedIn trick is pretty cool—cool enough that we should save that for our next blog.

So once again, consistency, pre-plan it and continue to go and grow your business. Make more people, make it a goal. Before you head out to your networking event, have a goal in mind. “I’m going to meet five people, ten people, whatever that number is. Go for big number, and that’ll keep your introductions short. You want to make sure you listen to them twice as much as you talk. So, if you have two minutes of things to say, find a way to get them to speak for four minutes.

Look in the mirror before you leave. Make sure you’re dressed for success. You want to be approachable (do not wear excess perfume or cologne). Be respectful. Try to help people. The best way is give people tips. Help them with things you can help them with. Offer advice, offer suggestions, do things that are good for them instead of trying to sell them. Stop trying to sell people on the first time you meet them.

Turning Slow Months into Opportunities to Grow Your Business

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Businesses aren’t always bustling with customers buying. Some businesses are in a lull during summer and post-holiday winter. People’s spending habits change. They go on summer trips, spend more time outdoors or they had to pinch the dollar after spending everything for the holiday season. But there are things you can do to prepare your business for changing spending habits to help see you through the dry spell. In fact, this could be an opportunity to set your business for massive growth in time for the “days of plenty.”

1.    Improving the customer experience

You should always be working on ways to improve your customer’s experience. Set a priority system, if you haven’t done already. If you’re a brick and mortar store, move merchandise a bit to improve traffic and freshen your look. Set the vibe with posters, slogans, or works of art. Note how your customers shop, what they pick up, what they look at and where they wander. Anything you could think of to improve your customers’ overall experience, slowdowns can give you that opportunity.

Say you’re running a restaurant that serves Italian cuisine. Having replicas of Italian renaissance art or paintings of popular destinations can lend a traditional Italian vibe to your restaurant. Customers will start coming in, not just for the pasta, but for the whole experience. It’s one of the keys to Starbucks’ worldwide success as an iconic brand. People come not just for the daily dose of coffee; it’s the whole coffee experience they’ve grown to know and love.

Same goes if you have an e-commerce site or online store. You can use downtimes to improve your website by making it easier for customers to navigate or make buying and paying more frictionless. This brings us to our next point.

2.    Working on your online presence

There’s no excuse for not having a web presence, particularly during slow months. Popular webhosting platforms have made it easier than ever to create your own. If you want to test it out, try using a sales and marketing automation tool that comes with its own page builder/editor like Small Business Dream. Unlike most generic webhosting platforms, Small Business Dream is made specifically for small business owners like you.

You don’t have to start from scratch. If you’re a restaurant owner, simply choose Restaurant from a list of templates, and you’ll be greeted with a web page specific to your industry, complete with background and featured images, sample text, and call-to-action. Slap your brand and logo to make it truly yours. Jazz it up with pictures of your mouthwatering dishes, and promote your site through email and social media.

Once you’ve established an online presence, you become more searchable, enabling your business to gain more clients through online visits, thus maintaining your cash flow even during slow months.

3.      Empowering your employees

Use their spare time to level up and acquire new skills. Teach them how to be a sales and marketing pro. With cutting edge technology in sales and marketing automation, we can condense the learning process significantly. What has taken many top earners and marketing legends to master can now be learned in less than a year at just a fraction of the cost (before we have Internet, they had to spend hours finding leads and qualify each one over the phone).

Think of how many hours you’ll save by getting your team up to speed. They can reach their goal, say 10 to 20 leads per day, in just one or two hours instead of eight. Multiply that with the number of hours per week and the number of sales people in your team and see how your company can save hundreds of hours for other productive endeavors. This could mean more sales and bigger opportunities to grow your business.

4.    Finding business partners

Successful businesses are built through partnerships. In retail businesses, this could mean finding the best suppliers that would allow you to get the highest profit margins, or in the case of auto repair shops, provide you with both high quality aftermarket and genuine OEM parts at a lower price. Having less customers during these slow months means you’ll have more time looking for these people.

There are many ways to find partners. One way involves finding business partners through social media. Of course, not everyone on social media are genuinely interested teaming up with you (some aren’t even real people, i.e., bots and fake accounts). You’ll need a tool to curate your “likes” or “follows” to see if their businesses do exist or if they really want to build serious business relationship with you. Small Business Dream offers a way to curate your leads through the Social Connect function. This allows you to find potential partners and weed out bad ones in one sweep.

A second option involves meeting up with people in business conferences, expos, and networking events. This requires social skills, a compelling business idea, and the ability to handle objections. This type of event allows you to network with likeminded people who you can partner with – or at the very least become a customer. You’ll have to own this skill through experience and gaining a lot of exposure in social events.


Regardless of the industry you’re in, you’ll find many practical uses of sales and marketing automation for your business. Struggling to find high quality leads? Train your realtors and insurance agents to set up sales funnels and survey pages to qualify unlimited number of leads. Other businesses like home improvement, dining, beauty care, and repair service, can also find lots of creative ways of using sales and marketing automation.  Need more sales ideas? Small Business Dream can lend a hand through their mentoring services and help oversee your sales people.

As you can see, slowdowns doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being less productive; you’re simply channeling your resources to further your business goals over the long haul.

How to Network Like a Boss

Do you go to networking events? If you’re a business owner, then you definitely should be. There was this really great article about how the higher up somebody is in an organization, the less likely he feels that going to a networking event is kind of a “dirty” thing.

I know some people aren’t comfortable with networking events. It makes them feel “dirty” and they’re doing something wrong because most people are doing them wrong. The idea of a networking event is to make friends. You think to yourself “Oh my god! Build relationships. Sounds hard.” And you don’t just go over and vomit all over people. You go to form relationships.

You are obviously looking to steer the conversation in a way to see if they might be a potential client, but you need people to know, like, and trust you before they will become a client.

When I go to a networking event I break down people into a couple of categories, depending on who that person is. The categories are usually potential friend, potential client, potential employee, and potential partner. But just because someone starts out as a friend doesn’t mean that they can’t become a client or a partner later on. Your relationship may change. Or Maybe you’ll just remain really good golf buddies.

Whoever they are, you should put them into an automation follow up series for personal contact, so that I’m still interacting with them, even if I haven’t actually gone to the point of figuring out where they might fit into my business or where I might fit into theirs.

Then I go after sort of a couple of categories in with my business. They might be interested in a free trial of my software. They might be interested in becoming a re-seller. They might be interested in becoming a consultant. And all of this is done in a carefully crafted conversation.

You go into a networking function armed with your conversation that you practiced and rehearsed. You’ve seen how people react to things in their face when you talk to them. You see it in their eyes, and you hone that. You get to the point where you’re a broken record because broken records work. And then you can get better.

This is practicing the kick 10,000 times instead of a new kick every time. I’ve worked through a million iterations. If you want to network like a boss you do it by going to four or five events a week. Not four or five a year. Not four or five a month. Go to four or five a week, and within three weeks you will have honed your skills. You will have sucked in front of a whole bunch of people.

And then the neat part is everyone gets nervous, especially the first few times. “Oh yeah, but what if I see the guy again and he knows I sucked?” Guess what I found happened? They overhear you at another event and they’ll come up to you and say, “Damn you’ve gotten so much better than the first day I met you!”

Everyone’s there in the same game. We’re all trying to improve our skills. We’re all trying to squeak out a living. We’re all trying to enjoy the surf, the sun, and whatever. Somehow we just got to get people to stop sweating the details.

If you’re out there generating prospects and leads stop sweating the details. Go with the idea that you’ve maybe helped some people. Go with the idea that maybe at the networking event you can point some people to some helpful resources. Or you can introduce them to someone else you know that might make a good relationship or maybe you can introduce them to a free trail of a couple of tools that you found.

Go there with the idea that you’re going to go to this networking event, and you’re going to help a few people with problems in their business. If that turns into a sale, then great. Don’t be selfish and only try to help people with problems your product sells. Just help people. For example someone’s struggling with taking a picture with their cell phone. “Hey, something I can help you with?”

I love networking events for that reason. It’s incredibly fast to rapidly iterate. The business prospects are all there. You’re not going to close a business prospect the first time you meet them at a networking event, so stop trying and you’ll have way more fun.

You need to build a relationship and have that conversation. They need to see you a couple of times to build trust. You show up to a networking event once and you go, “Well that didn’t work.” That’s not how networking works. You need to practice.

There’s always going to be ways you can improve. And if you do fail, then of course you know there’s lots of ways you can reframe that. You should practice thinking your identity and your role as separate. So you can think: “they’re not rejecting me. They’re rejecting my role.”

You know so many times people attach their role and identity together, and they find themselves feeling hurt, rejected and devalued. I knew a man who worked his entire life and he eventually retired. He was a fit healthy guy when he retired and he died five years later because he actually attached his role as business owner and mayor of a town to his identity. And it happens a lot. You know people lose their job and throw themselves out of a window.

Often when you go into these networking events you ask yourself, “Who am I today? How do I represent myself and be okay?” And if you just take an attitude of service, I’ve had some clients with you know earth-shaking reputations and huge client lists, and I’ve sort of worked myself up a little bit. “Well, how am I going to sell this person?”

Related: How to Overcome Stumbling Blocks to Successful Networking

Take a moment to go, “Hang on. If I go in with an attitude of service I can ask better questions.” I can understand their business, pain, and issues better than if I gone in to try to sell something. Then you ask them what’s the result they’d like out of the meeting to be. They tell me. And guess what I deliver in my proposal? I’ve delivered what they told me they want delivered. Amazingly enough, I got the business.

I went to a networking event the other night and it’s put on by one of the larger cell phone providers. I went to one of their events and was a free event and it was fantastic. It blew my mind. It was a catered, wonderful event, and it was free so I naturally wanted to get more involved.

I saw another one of their events come up so I’m like, “Well, I’ll go. I could eat. Right?” I went there with my bucket full of bunker rings, which are my phone rings as my little giveaway. I actually went there because this mobile company called Rogers has just started this whole campaign to try to help small businesses. And, of course, that’s what we do. So I went there because there was a speaker being flown in from Toronto to Vancouver.

This guy was flown in from Toronto to talk about what I talk about, so I’m like, “Hang on. I got to go meet some of these people and maybe if I get lucky I’ll be able to steer the conversation to where I can be a bit of a public speaker and get flown around Canada; helping them out and getting my message out.”

And then it was a really hot day and I normally go to these things in a suit because I believe to always be dressed at the same or one higher than anyone you’re meeting with, and I dialed it back to a polo shirt and dress slacks. When I got there everyone was at my level or a step below, so I was like, “Well, thank god I didn’t show up in a suit.” I mean I would have looked better than the speaker. That’s not cool.

I pulled out my bunker rings and I start talking to this nice Russian lady who was also looking at helping businesses, and she worked for some business consultant. I gave her a bunker ring. And then I’m giving out bunker rings and people are getting them and they’re actually sticking them on their phones, and then this other lady comes over and she says, “You’re going to be embarrassed for me when I show you what I have.” And she holds up her phone in her hand through this strap thing that’s attached to her case. She says, “I want one of those for forever.”

I said, “Well, I’ll tell you what: You let me take a picture of you with that one, and then we’re going to put mine on yours and we’re going to take another picture. As long as you’ll let me put that on Twitter and use it in my social media stuff, I’ll give you one. Heck, I’ll give you two.”

But it turns out that she was flown in from Toronto. Her sole purpose was to find energetic people who know what they’re talking about to join them in speaking across Canada.

All because I went there to give out some bunker rings, make some friends, and eat some food. And I helped this Russian lady with some of her problems in front of this other lady who’s overhearing it, and suddenly she got my bunker ring. I give them to all the other executives that were in from Toronto. One guy walked away with three; apparently he had a wife and a girlfriend.

I didn’t go there and ask who’s in the charge. Source them out. I would’ve if it wouldn’t have developed naturally. Make no mistake about it, I would have worked the room until I found who I need to talk to. But by just being me, going there, helping people, giving away my little gizmos in a polite and respectful way that didn’t interrupt their event. That’s how you network like a boss. Go there to help. Go there to serve.

I not only made some great contacts but I managed to get some speaking gigs out of it too. I’ve got the local guy wanting me to do a bunch of events that weren’t as formal as that one. Then the other lady she’s like, “Look, you’ve got to take my number. You’ve got to take my email. You have to follow up. We need people like you.” So I’ve started that process and I have no doubt that once I set my mind to it it’ll happen.


How to Overcome Stumbling Blocks to Successful Networking

The ability to connect with people is essential to the success of your business. Professional networking events can present you with opportunities to interact with others in business on a personal level, and this can develop profitable relationships. These occasions are critical for anyone who wants to grow a business or promote a career.

Many people are simply not comfortable walking into a room full of strangers and starting up a conversation, but there are some simple ways to get around that fear.

Stumbling Blocks to Successful Networking

Related: How to Network Like a Boss

Here are five common stumbling blocks to successful networking, and some ways to help you overcome them.

1. Reluctance to talk to strangers

We’re all taught at an early age not to talk to strangers because “It’s just not safe.” In certain situations, this is still good advice. In business, however, talking to strangers is the best way to generate interest and support for your products and services. If you only talk to the people that you already know, you’ll definitely miss out on opportunities to make new connections and establish valuable contacts.

To get past your fear of talking to strangers, set a goal for yourself before you attend any networking event. Decide how many new contacts you want to make, or how many “strangers” you want to meet. In some cases, you could even make a list of people that you’d like to meet.

Next, think of some icebreakers or conversation starters. Prepare questions that you can ask anyone you meet at the event. You might want to ask about other people’s business, their connection to the sponsoring organization or their opinion of the venue.

2. Lack of a formal introduction

It’s a whole lot easier to make a new contact when there’s someone else to handle the introduction and pave the way for you. If you wait for another person to make that move, you might not meet anyone. At networking events, the goal is to meet as many new people as possible.

This is the time to take the bull by the horns, walk up to people you don’t know, introduce yourself and start a conversation! You can easily do this if you’ve prepared your ‘self-introduction’ in advance.

You shouldn’t introduce yourself the same way to every person. Maybe it’s your first time attending an association meeting. In that case, you might want to say that as part of your introduction. Let people know who you are, why you are there and give them a reason to ask more about you.

3. Fear of being seen as ‘pushy’

Maybe you think you’ll turn people off if you’re assertive, and that if they want to talk to you, they’ll make the first move. If this is your line of thinking you’ll very likely find yourself spending a lot of time alone at the reception or meeting function and leave without a single new connection. Being open, friendly and interested does not turn people off.

You won’t come across as overly aggressive if you seek out the “approachable” people. These are the ones who are standing alone or who are speaking in groups of three or more. Two people talking to each other are not approachable because they may be having a private conversation and you could very well be interrupting.

4. Thinking that other people may not like you

There is always the risk that the other person is not interested in you and doesn’t want to meet or talk to you. It happens. If that is the case, don’t take it personally. Nothing ventured is nothing gained. When you get a cold shoulder, smile, move on and say to yourself, “Next?”

5. Having your intentions misunderstood

Approaching someone of the opposite sex to begin a conversation can seem more like flirting than networking. This is more of an issue for women than it is for men. Women have an equal place in the work environment and need to make professional connections just like men do. Women in business can no longer afford to hold back when there is an opportunity to meet new people.

Neither men nor women will have their motives misinterpreted if they present themselves professionally and if they keep the conversation focused on business issues or topics that are not personal or private.

Whatever your stumbling blocks, face them before the next networking event and devise a personal plan for getting past them. Once you do, you connect with confidence and courtesy on every occasion and the results will definitely be reflected in your bottom line.