You’ve probably heard the saying “It’s not what you know but who you know” right? This is true in business whether you are an online entrepreneur or own a brick and mortar store. What if your business is solely online like that of a virtual assistant? Is offline networking still relevant? Of course it is important unless you never talk to anyone outside your computer screen.
Step 1: What is Business Networking?
The first step to networking is to know what it is that you are doing. What is business networking? According to a definition on Wikipedia “Business networking is a socioeconomic activity by which groups of like-minded businesspeople recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities.” So, if it is a group activity you can’t be wasting away in your home office. You have to put on some real clothes and go meet people.
Step 2: Build Your Network
Before you go out and meet anyone you need to build a networking list. This list will consist of people you know like friends, relatives, former employers or supervisors, classmates and neighbors. You can make a spreadsheet, as you’ll be referring to this list often. You’ll want to list the name of the resource, their contact information like their phone number, address, and email. As this is for offline networking you don’t necessarily have to list the social networks they belong to.
Step 3: Contact Your Resources Daily
You should have a pretty decent list by now, about twenty-five or more contacts. Your next step is to contact them. You might want to create a contact form to track your activity. It should include the name of the person or organization, the address, phone number, email, who referred you, when you contacted them, what you discussed, follow-up activities and any referrals they gave you.
Each day you want to contact at least 10 people. Make it your goal to get 2 new referrals from each contact. With these referrals try to make 2 face-to-face meetings each week.
Step 4: Find Out Where Everyone Is
There are a number of places to meet potential businesspeople. You can try your local chamber of commerce, check local meetups, ask around at social clubs and churches or see what other home based business owners are doing in your area. The local coffeehouse is always a neutral meeting ground for quick meetups. If you’re nervous about meeting someone new try to plan out what your goal is first. Pre-plan some questions and remember that you are building relationships, not selling anything.
Step 5: Write Thank-You Letters or Emails
Just as if you had a regular 9 – 5 job it is polite to send a quick thank-you to your referral and to the contact that referred you to them. Again a form might help you keep track of who referred whom so that this will be fairly easy for you. A good habit to get into is to keep the thank-you notes in your car. This way as soon as the meeting is over you can write a quick note and send it off in the mail. Alternatively you can also send a quick email thanking them for their time via your smart-phone.
Business networking can be very beneficial to you but it can also benefit those you are connecting with. Keep in mind that you want to listen more than talk. Try to grab at least 3 points of interest per contact. Finally, be sure to ask them how you might help them meet their goals.