The Trauma of First Time Networking!
So you’ve decided to start your own business, you’re going it alone, you know your good at what you do and other people are doing really well so why not you?
Now you need to get Clients, you may already have a few potential or even actual Clients that you can get started with, but you need more, after all, you still have your bills to pay.
Word of mouth gets around (hopefully) and you manage to get a few more Clients, which is great, but you still need more.
Someone talks to you about networking, so you go along to a meeting and let’s face it there are loads of them, breakfast meetings, lunchtime meetings and evening meetings, you could basically network all day every day, there are so many meetings!
You get there and you are suddenly in a room full of people you don’t know and you are expected to talk to them, well that is all well and good if you are confident, but if you are a bit shy, that’s easier said than done, I mean you have to give a good impression of yourself because any one of these people could be a potential Client, but where do you start, what do you say after hello!
Ok you’ve got through that bit and you're now sat down and the meeting has started and then it’s the elevator pitch, the 45 or 60 seconds that you have to stand up in front of all those people and sell yourself and your services. You may have prepared your little speech, you may have practiced it numerous times, you may even have timed yourself to make sure you don’t overrun, but that was in private and now you’re here and now it’s your turn and all you really want to do is run for the door screaming, but you don’t, you do the best you can.
I know this bit can be really scary, and I really hard for a lot of people, but what you forget is that everyone else in that room has also done it for the first time at some point and they were also nervous, so they understand and probably empathise with you more because it is your first time, but I can assure you it gets easier, if you stick with it.
Now you have gotten through your first networking event, be proud of yourself, but you need to continue and you also need to understand what networking is actually about. If you walk into the room and think this is my potential Client base, you have the idea all wrong, these people are your potential referrers, these people know loads of people, and these people want you to refer Clients to them.
You need to get to know them, you need to have 1-2-1’s so that you can understand their business and hopefully refer your contacts to them, and really that’s what you want as well, if you refer to one of your networking contacts, they are more likely to refer their contacts to you, but this can be a slow process. If you join a group, stick with it and get to know as many contacts as you can, because referrals can come from the most unexpected of places.
My one real tip for networking if you are just starting, is to try out a lot of different groups before you decide on which one or more to join, each group will have different benefits and you need to find the right fit for you and your business and decide whether a locked out group or an open group is best for you, because at the end of the day we are all different and each business is different, but the one thing that is the same for all small business is
Networking Works, if you do it right!