Let’ s assumes you don’t know everyone you need to know to grow your business. Who does? That’ s when the networking game comes into play. Even if you’re an introvert, as an entrepreneurial businesswoman, you ’ve got to reach out. And it’ s not just a numbers game. You’re a real person, building business relationships on trust and respect. So how do you do that? Keep the basics of business networking at heart.
You need to be able to ask for the business. If that’s hard for you, practice. Seriously. It’s called the elevator pitch for good reason. You need to be able to articulate, in a quick sentence or two, your keywords: name, company’s name, your business or industry, your product, and where to find you. Followed closely by “and here is my business card.” All in the span of an elevator going up a couple of floors. Remember that adage, you only have one chance to make a good first impression.
And speaking of business cards, never leave home without them. Evenings. Weekends. always. successful real estate agents know this, and you should, too. Cards are cheap, be generous with them. (of course, they have your e-mail address, phone, and website listed.) Hand them to friends and family, and give them your elevator pitch. Explain to them your target audience practice with them, and they’ll be able to share your vision. Ask for referrals, maximize every chance meeting and swap cards)
Once your pitch is perfected, your cards are printed, and your friends and family are onboard, you need to make sure you’re memorable. Be distinctive and take a genuine interest in people. Remember, everyone can spot a fake. Start with small talk and work your way up to meaningful talk. Pay attention. Reach out to someone else standing alone. And, with 420 women in the united states starting their own business each day, you need to stand out in the crowd. It’s no longer going to be true that being a woman business owner makes you unique. Now it’s about the real you.
Join organizations that have to mean to you. Do you want to go to meetings to learn or to just make contacts? Visit as many groups as possible before joining any because you need to be selective. Attending too many meetings or joining too many groups is the opposite of real. And when you decide which organization is for you, become an active member. Take on a leadership role. You’ll get the most out of your time and membership that way, and so will the organization.
Use the internet for networking. Beyond posting your profile and your businesses profile on the popular social networking sites, know there are a number of small business networking sites out there as well. Many focus on women entrepreneurs, others on specific types of businesses. Some of these networking sites have fees attached; and some offer free memberships
As a woman-owned business, you need to consider applying for certification with the Woman’s Business Enterprise National Council at wbenc.org. another rich site, full of information, is womenowned.com. check out womenentrepreneur.com for great networking ideas.
During face-to-face or online networking, remember to give as well as to take. Ask open-ended questions of others, and truly listen. You need to actively build relationships, not databases of business cards and e-mail addresses. Speaking of that, though, do stay organized. And e-mail is fine once you’ve started a relationship. In fact, according to the Meta Group Survey, 80 percent of people prefer typing to talking. Think about what that means for your networking strategies.
Don’t underestimate the power of women’s organizations. You need to realize that without them, you wouldn’t be creating your real business today. It takes groups of women joining together to affect change. As you grow your real you incorporated business, engaging in the work you love and building a culture you’re proud of, you need to realize that almost no woman has had an unimpeded career. In your quest to keep learning and adding to your network, don’t be afraid to reach out to other business people you admire, no matter how famous or seemingly out of reach. They are people, too, and if you make the interchange mutually beneficial, you’ll be surprised at the results.