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Sink or Swim: Networking and the Entrepreneur

April 21st, 2007 by rosie · 2 Comments


For some it’s a dreaded word, a feared part of doing business. But, it’s absolutely vital to success, especially if you are on your own in the business world. For the typical entrepreneur, 2/3 of business comes from direct personal contact (networking and referrals). Then all entrepreneurs must be great networkers, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. So, if you’re one of the many who find it’s not one of your strong points, then you must learn to be a better networker.

The term “networking” has become a major buzzword in the business world. There are stacks of books on the subject, networking groups, and even networking seminars. But simply put, networking can be broken down to one thought: To connect on a personal level with others. It’s not just about handing out numerous business cards. It’s not just about being in the right meetings or groups. It’s about connecting; it’s about relationships. When you begin connecting with others in this way, then you begin creating mutually beneficial relationships.

Good networkers are those who have a genuine interest in the person they are speaking with. They are on the lookout to be of assistance. They share resources, ideas, and contacts. They are trustworthy and trusting. They sincerely want to help others in the business world and/or their potential clients. They are good listeners. Good networking takes time and a personal investment in a relationship.

Some are natural people-persons; they are inclined to be outgoing and meet people. They might even have an easier time remembering names! But for the rest of you, here are some practical, easy tips that you can start implementing right now.

1. Be genuine. Become sincerely interested in the person you are with. People can spot a fake and will not appreciate it if they think you are sponging off them or their circle.

2. Introduce yourself. Say your name clearly. Offer a pleasantry, such as “It’s nice to meet you.” Describe who you are and what you do in 10 seconds or less. Maintain eye contact.

3. Develop a good handshake. Avoid the “limp fish” handshake and the WWWF handshake.

4. Carry business cards. When the time is appropriate, usually at the end of meeting a new contact, leave them with a business card and ask if they have one for you.

5. Remember names. This may not be the easiest part, but do your best. When you meet someone initially, repeat their name and use it a few times in the conversation. This not only will help you remember it, but it will likely ingratiate yourself with them. If you are absolutely forgetful when it comes to names, then don’t be afraid to write it down in an accessible, organized place.

6. Ask open-ended questions. This will help you converse with a new contact easily and learn more about them. If you aren’t the best conversationalist, then learn a handful of these types of questions to use. Here are a few examples to try: “What do you do?” “How did you get into that?” “Do you like it?” “Have you ever thought about doing something else?”

7. Be a giver. Be a helpful resource by sharing your ideas, talents, contacts, and giving referrals. The rule in life about having to give before you get is equally true in the business world. People will remember and appreciate your help and respond in kind.

8. Follow through on referrals. And do it in a timely manner. Respect when someone gives you a referral and act accordingly. This shows your regard for the person who gave you the referral and keeps that relationship flowing.

When it comes to an entrepreneur and networking, it’s a sink or swim situation. There’s no way around it. The good news is that even those who may not naturally be disposed to be great at networking CAN learn the basics and improve their networking skills. And the importance and benefits of networking are not limited to business, but also apply to every other area of life.

[tags]networking, business, entrepreneur, work-at-home, self-employed, sales, sell[/tags]

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    Comment by Beachcomber
    2008-08-21 16:02:39

    Successful single handed entrepreneurship doesn’t totally rely upon personal contact. I and several of my ‘colleagues’ do perfectly well by establishing relationships online only. No face to face contact whatsoever.

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    Comment by Debby M
    2009-06-16 23:57:52

    Just came across your post. I found it informative for me and I’m sure many others. I did also have small trouble subscribing to the blog but figured it out; I’m still a 2-finger typist :) . Thank you and keep your blogging spirit going strong.

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