It's Who You Know: Effective Networking Tips for Small Business Owners

Business.com / Starting a Business / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

"It's not what you know, it's who you know." You've heard this countless times, so here are 4 effective networking tips for the SMB owner.

Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur looking to launch a new startup or a seasoned small business owner trying to expand and grow your brand, networking is an important aspect of business. And while it’s a vital component of success, it can be challenging for many. Where do you start and how do you effectively build connections?

Networking is critical for business owners and entrepreneurs, and it starts by surrounding yourself with people and institutions of power and influence. There are numerous events ideal for this type of connection building, from art galas held in gallery spaces like Park West Gallery to conferences held at high-end hotels, like the Centara Grand and Bangkok Convention Center in Thailand.

Read on for some helpful tips regarding leveraging networking events to the best of your ability to help gain a leg up.

Make a Good First Impression

You never know who you’re going to meet, and according to cognitive science research, it takes up to 200 times the amount of information to undo a first impression as it takes to create one in the first place. As such, it’s important to show up and present the best possible version of yourself.

Ask yourself what your goals are when participating in a networking-related event. Do you want to learn about the trade? Are you here to make connections with other businesspeople? One excellent way to get people to see you is by volunteering. Not only will giving back help your organization, but will also place you in the prominent eye as someone who’s committed to going above and beyond.

Another part of making a first impression is to show, not tell about, your attitude and talents. Rather than busting out the same tired byline in every conversation, demonstrate your graciousness and useful contributions. Don’t forget to smile!

Related Article: Give Your First Impression a Makeover

Listen More than You Talk

When it comes to forging business relationships, think more about relationships than about business. This is also part of making a good impression. You want to show warmth and an interest in other people, and that means listening more than you talk. It’s not hard to make people feel welcome and heard; listen to what they have to say and ask them to tell you more.

Your questions should be open-ended (who, where, what, when, and how), rather than questions that simply require a “yes” or a “no.” Asking the right kinds of questions will place you as a warm, active listener in relation to the other person. Don’t forget enthusiasm and to show signs of active listening. Also, it’s okay to laugh when something is funny.

Find (or Make) a Personal Connection

Another part of building relationships is to share personal stories, because that’s what makes people remember you. Don’t be sleazy, but do offer compliments where appropriate.

It’s entirely possible to attend an event, talk to 20 people in 20 minutes, and leave exactly where you started: without any connections. Instead, try to invest time and energy into your conversations, because longer conversations will be far more beneficial.

If you have a hard time starting the conversation, do a little homework before you arrive. Check up on who’s going to be there, and come up with questions to ask those specific individuals. They don’t have to be related to your profession; you can ask about topics like food or travel before you segue into talking about business-related matters.

Related Article: How to Achieve Work-Life Balance as a Small Business Owner

Follow Up

After the event is over, don’t forget to follow up with the individuals you connected with. If you fail to follow up, the conversation may as well not have happened. Write personalized follow up notes a few days after the event to cement your impression in the minds of those people you talked to. If you’re not following up, you’re not networking.

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