If there's one thing that makes business owners anxious, it's networking.
Some would describe it as difficult, others stressful. However, the importance of it cannot be understated.
Business networking can lead to partnerships, sales, and future contacts that can help you (and you them) in unforeseen ways. It's a necessity for any business owner, and if you do it wrong, you'll miss countless opportunities.
So how does someone (like me) who is anxious about networking with other professionals push through?
It's simple. Start by breaking the ice...
Typically business networking happens at events where everyone has a shared interest. For example, a conference, vendor exposition, or networking event for small business professionals. Knowing you all have shared interests is a great way to break the ice with people who would otherwise be considered complete strangers.
Breaking the ice with someone is the first necessary step to get a conversation going. Everyone's style will be different, but if you remain friendly and professional, it's easy to get a conversation going to open the door for business discussions.
Just ask a few non-threatening questions like "where are you from?" or "what brings you here?"
If you're the one answering their questions, try to think in advance of something memorable you can say... Should you find a business connection while networking, you can reference this memorable statement in a follow-up email.
Starting the "Real" Business Discussion
After warming up with a few harmless questions, If the other person is interested in engaging this will inevitably lead to a conversation about what each of you works on. This is where the value of business networking will really shine. Start the "real" business conversation with a handshake and an introduction.
Don't forget to ask their name!
While it might seem counterintuitive, focus on how you can help them. By doing so, you'll peak their interest, leave a good impression, and make them want to follow up. Usually, if you can help your newly met business acquaintance, there's business to be had and money to be made.
A Few Additional Tips
First, bring plenty of business cards, and don't be stingy about giving them out.
Second, have an elevator pitch memorized and be sure you can recite it naturally. You will be asked plenty of times what you do, and you'll want to be certain what you say is both interesting and valuable.
Third, get their card. If they don't have one, ask them to write their info on one of yours. You cannot rely on them contacting you back. Not only is it out of your control... They will likely get busy and never respond. Get their card!
Finally, write a reminder of what you discussed in the card as well as a few details about them (after they leave of course). This will help jog your memory on why you want to work together. It will also make your follow up call or email more personal.
Listen to the Podcast
All of this and more is described in our podcast. In it, we outline everything here and fill in the blanks with examples and additional detail.