This is the blog transcript of our video “How to Network as a New Business Owner”. If you’d like to see more of our videos, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel here.
Congratulations! You’ve started a business.
Hey everyone, I’m Ian Campbell, CEO of Mission Suite. Before we jump into today’s video, do me a favor and hit the subscribe button and ring the bell so that you’re notified whenever we post new videos.
You probably have a lot of people telling you that it’s time to start building a network. But if you’re a new business owner, how do you go about building that network?
Well if you have no experience in selling or networking, this can be a pretty daunting task. Fortunately, it can be easily broken down into a fairly straightforward process that you can follow.
There are plenty of reasons business owners avoid networking. Especially business owners who trend more toward the introverted side.
Personally, I’m an ambivert – I like to work a room…but only if I’m in the mood. That made networking a challenge for me when I got started because there were plenty of times that I just wasn’t in the mood.
As a result, I’d end up hanging out by the bar with a drink in my hand and waiting for people to run into me. It made for a fun night…but it felt more like a singles mixer than a networking event.
So how do you network as a new business owner…and actually make it productive?
First, find the right kind of group for you.
There are plenty of different types of networking events that you can check out and ultimately you’re going to have to determine what type of events are going to work for you.
Everyone has their own favorite event styles. The ones that I like are panel or educational groups, meal groups, and roundtable groups.
The panel discussion groups are great because they typically offer some sort of education or interesting topical information in addition to the opportunity to network. Plus, when you are networking, it’s nice to have a conversation starter.
Questions like “what are you looking forward to learning this morning?” or “what did you take away from the presentation?” are great ways to start a conversation with someone.
Meal groups are great because they provide a natural opportunity to sit down with someone. It becomes really easy to make a connection and avoid the awkward slide into a group of people who may already be talking.
Especially if you’re new to the networking game, this could be a great option for you to ease the transition into it by taking some of the pressure off.
Roundtable groups are great because you’re typically meeting with the same people regularly so you’re more likely to develop solid relationships with those people.
If you meet with the same group of people once a week or once a month (or whatever the interval), you’re going to get to know those folks really well and you’ll hopefully always be top of mind when they hear of a need that matches up with your business.
Now those are my three favorite types of networking groups, but if those don’t seem to suit you, there are plenty of happy hour groups, associations, and other lead style groups that you can check out.
The important thing is to make sure that you’re comfortable jumping in and getting involved with whatever group you decide to work with.
Know what you’re looking for.
While networking events aren’t meant to be strictly for prospecting for new clients (for most people, anyway), you still want to prepare for them. Make sure you go into your event knowing what you’re looking for.
Make sure that you have a clear understanding of your ideal client profile so you don’t turn into that person who’s just trying to pitch everybody that they meet (nobody likes that person).
Beyond that, though, make sure you know exactly who can refer you to your perfect clients. Networking events are great opportunities to get to know referral partners as well as clients, and they can be even more beneficial than direct client relationships at times.
Once you have some clarity around those two targets, and you’re able to articulate it, you’ll have a better understanding of the purpose of your networking events.
And it might help you figure out what types of events you should be going to as well.
Get ready for the event
What do you need to do to get ready for your first (or your 101st) networking event?
Well, there are some clear things that you should always have ready before you go to an event. And this applies to everyone regardless of whether they’re new to this whole networking thing or if they’ve been doing this for years.
First, make sure you know your 30 second pitch. You need to know how to introduce yourself to people in a way that provides a clear understanding of who you are, what you do, and why people work with you.
If you can get access to it, take a look at the attendee list. That will allow you to do a bit of research into the people who you’ll be networking with and it’ll help you focus your efforts on meeting specific people who could be good prospects or good referral partners.
Can’t get the attendee list? Spend some time chatting with the membership folks of the organization putting on the event to find out who you should meet and ask if they can introduce you to a couple people.
Remember, it’s the organizer’s job to make sure that the people there are making the connections that they need. Let them help you do that.
And finally, make sure to bring business cards.
This is something that I’ve always been particularly bad at. For some reason I always leave my business cards sitting on my desk before I go to an event. I’m able to make a joke out of it and make it work for me but honestly, it’s not worth the hassle.
Make sure you have plenty of business cards so that you can exchange yours when you meet someone.
Are you an active networker? Or a network newbie? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments and, while you’re there, make sure to give this video a quick thumbs up so that I know that you’re getting some value out of it!
Work the room.
Now you’re at the event, and it’s time to get to know some people. This, of course, assumes that the COVID pandemic has passed us and we’re able to interact with people in groups again.
This can be the fun part, so do your best to enjoy it.
I know that, when you first start, it’s going to feel awkward. Honestly, there’s no getting around it and this is one of those situations where the only way out is through.
If you want to become successful at building your business through networking, you have to work a room. And the only way that becomes natural – and enjoyable – is to do it over and over again until you start looking forward to those events!
And I can almost promise you that eventually you will start to enjoy them and look forward to them. As you start to get to know the people who are always at the events and get familiar with the crowds it does become a lot of fun.
But before you get there, start by setting a goal for yourself every time you walk into a room.
If you know that all you need to do is make three connections before you can leave, these events become a lot less overwhelming.
Make sure to follow up
And finally, the follow up. This is arguably the most important part of networking.
Remember that deals are rarely, if ever, made “in the room”. If you want to do business with someone, you have to make sure to follow up with them so that you can sit down and discuss how you might be able to do business together.
This could be a referral relationship, a client relationship, or maybe even nothing at all, but the only way you’re going to find out is to follow up.
I like to segment my networking follow up into three different categories – We talked about getting together again, We didn’t talk about getting together again but I want to, and finally what I call the Gentle Blow off.
For me, these three categories do a great job at determining what my follow up looks like.
And the follow up systems that I’ve described here are already built into Mission Suite, so if you’re a new client (or looking for a good CRM), it might be worth checking those out!
We do have a short demo of Mission Suite that will walk you through exactly how these systems are created to help you be more effective with networking as a new business owner or as someone who’s been doing this for years.
If you want to take a look at that demo, you can see a link to that video in the description of this video.
Hey I hope you got something out of this video. And if you did, go ahead and give it a thumbs up and maybe a share so that others can see it too. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our channel and ring the bell so that you’re notified whenever we post new videos and while you’re at it, check out these videos too!
We’ll see you next time around!