A great way to build your business is through networking. Every city has organized networking events to bring business people together. Associations, clubs and membership organizations all hold regular get-togethers which are great opportunities to meet others who can help you achieve your business goals. The opportunities exist to meet other people, create alliances and partnerships and to spread the word about your business. However, like most things in life, you need to be prepared to make the most of the opportunities.
Networking is a great way to build your business, but it does require more skill than just showing up and hoping for the best. If you are new to networking, this tip is a great way to get started. If you are already using networking, it should help you to be a more skilled networking professional.
Do you love networking or is it something you force yourself to do because you know you must to build your business? When you go to a networking event, how much time do you spend speaking with people you know vs. meeting new people? Are you hoping new, potential clients will walk up to you and initiate a conversation? Think about how difficult it is for you to introduce yourself to a stranger.
This TIP of the WEEK is a list of ice breakers to help you start meaningful conversations with potential clients and partners when out networking. If you want to make the most out of your networking, be the person who starts the conversation. Challenge yourself to spend twice as much time speaking to those you don’t know than those you do.
Here is a list of icebreakers to get you started.
1. What got you started in this business/industry?
2. What separates you and your firm from the competition?
3. What one thing would you do if you knew you could not fail?
4. Describe the strangest thing that has ever happened to you in your business.
5. What is your biggest challenge in business?
6. What advice would you give someone just starting out in your business?
7. What do you enjoy most about your profession?
Effective networking involves listening, not telling. So, ask people about their business instead of telling them about yours. The most effective networkers hold conversations with the people they meet. They don’t try to sell their product or promote their business in these meetings. It is important to keep in mind that a conversation is a two way street. Don’t be the person doing all the talking. Engaging someone is an effective way to learn about them and identify potential ways you can do business together. You need to take a genuine interest in what they have to say. Preparing some conversation starters in advance is a great way to be sure you are well prepared to begin the conversation.