If you are a small business owner in the UK, you are in good company. In 2016, small businesses accounted for 99.3% of all private sector ventures, while these entities also employed an impressive 15.7 million individuals nationwide.
As a small business owner in the digital age, you are also likely to place an increased emphasis on digital marketing techniques such as SEO, content marketing and social media engagement. There are good reasons for this too, with the cost-effective mediums offering exceptional reach and increasingly accurate performance metrics.
Believe it or not, there is still a huge amount to be gained through good, old-fashioned networking. The key lies in your execution, so here are some tips to help you out:
- Work on your ‘Elevator Pitch’
If you have not heard of the so-called ‘elevator’ pitch, this is a concise statement that can summarise your businesses proposition in no more than 30 seconds. The theory is that this not only helps you to develop a greater understanding of your business, but it is also an effective tool when trying to engage people in a relatively short period of time.
It is therefore exceptionally useful when attending a network event, as you will be keen to interact with as many people as possible within the confines of your surroundings.
This is also far harder than it sounds, as you need to include enough detail to qualify your proposition without confusing the listener. So, take the time to develop and rehearse your pitch overtime, while ensuring that it can be delivered in a clear and succinct manner.
- Engage Others Through Questioning and Conversation
But networking events are not just about selling, we hear you shout, and you are quite right! In fact, business networking is about building relationships and engaging others, and this requires you to enter into two-way conversations that are genuinely meaningful.
A great way to achieve this is to develop some open-ended questions, which encourage others to converse and helps you to access (and share) as much insight as possible. Try to identify the best topics in each conversation too, as everyone has different passions, motivations and goals when networking with others.
It is also important that you do not make your underlying goal obvious when conversing, as this can prevent you from forging relationships. If you make it clear you are only there to sell, people will switch off quickly regardless of your proposition.
- Whatever you do, Don’t perform the Handshake / Business Card Trick
Avoiding an overly promotional approach can help you to avoid outdated and cringeworthy behaviour, including the pointless and crass trick where you shake someone’s hand while simultaneously providing them with a business card.
This has always been a weird tradition, and one that is increasingly likely to offend attendees at modern networking events. Not only are business cards increasingly outdated by themselves, but the idea of forcing one on an individual that you have only just met is poorly thought-out in the extreme.
This does not mean that you should share contact details, of course, as this is crucial if you are to follow-up either on or offline and continue the relationship in the real world. Just do this naturally at the end of your meeting, or at least when a viable opportunity presents itself!