By Rieva Lesonsky
For small business owners looking to grow their business, it’s easy to get so caught up in the world of social networking that you forget to get out in the real world and make connections. But networking the “old-fashioned way” is still one of the best strategies for business growth, especially for small businesses that rely on a local market or that sell business-to-business.
If you’re looking to revitalize your networking skills, my friend JJ Ramberg has a new book out that will get you off to a great start. Ramberg, host of the popular MSNBC show “Your Business,” gathered real-life advice from the thousands of entrepreneurs she’s interviewed to write It’s Your Business: 183 Essential Tips That Will Transform Your Small Business. While the book focuses on much more than networking, here are some of JJ’s suggestions for building business relationships.
- Be the first person at networking events. If you’re shy (like me), you probably think getting to events late is the way to go. In reality, by getting there right when the event starts, you’ll be forced to talk to others and help welcome new arrivals. Soon you can’t help but feel more confident. By contrast, if you get there late, you’ll be stuck trying to work your way into groups who are already having energetic conversations. Ugh!
- Meet face to face. How many times have you had a lengthy email back-and-forth with someone that could have been handled in 30 seconds of speaking in person? Instead of emailing or voice-mailing about major issues, Ramberg highly recommends meeting in person. Even phone calls aren’t the best way to resolve sensitive issues with a customer or vendor, but spending some time together over lunch or coffee enables you to tune into each other’s facial expressions and body language without distraction, helping resolve conflicts and cut through confusion.
- Meet someone new every week. If you never leave your business, nothing new will even happen to you, writes Ramberg. She suggests tapping your networks (both online and offline) to get connected with new people, then suggest meeting in person for coffee to get to know each other and learn how you can do business.
- The one-hour/two contacts rule. Spend one hour a day developing your contacts and network. If you make two new contacts or develop two new leads in the first 10 minutes of that hour, quit for the day. By devoting time to growing your network daily, you’ll keep your business moving forward.
- Just keep showing up. Was it Woody Allen who once said that “99 percent of success is showing up”? The same applies to networking events or business organizations. Keep going to your association or industry events, Ramberg writes. “Once you’ve attended a few times, you’ll suddenly be seen as an insider” and more people will want to meet you and work with you.
Image by Flickr user Shashi Bellamkonda (Creative Commons)Google+