As a new entrepreneur, one of your primary goals is to continue to fill your pipeline with new business. One of the most cost-effective ways to do this is through networking. One of the biggest roadblocks to networking is the fear that being a new entrepreneur impedes any successful attempts at networking. Here are a few networking tips for a new entrepreneur:
Become the host
Volunteer to be an ambassador or visitor host for a local business networking event. This can be a great way to get involved without leaving your comfort zone. By serving as a visitor host at your local chamber event, you effectively become the host of the party. Try it! You’ll find it much easier to meet and talk to new people.
Build your social capital at your desk
Online networking is a very effective way to connect with potential clients and referral sources. Social media has made it easier than ever before to connect with large numbers of people. Online networking gives new entrepreneurs a broad reach with low cost and effort. However, what online networking doesn’t do is provide a forum where relationships can deepen. It’s usually better to use social media with people only after you’ve established a relationship with them by traditional means. To develop trust, respect, and true friendship, it’s hard to beat in-person conversation.
Offer advice to break the ice
If you’re not sure how to break the ice, you might want to start by offering some free professional advice. It is possible to offer some value-added advice without coming across too sales-y. Sharing free advice will demonstrate your expertise as a new entrepreneur. Give your prospects a couple of ideas. Don’t go overboard. When it comes to building rapport and trust, few things do it better than solid, helpful information provided out of a genuine concern for the other person.
Become a trusted source for quality referrals and contacts
Another way a new entrepreneur can ease into networking is to provide a referral or contact. This could be a direct referral (someone you know who’s in the market for another person’s services) or a solid contact (someone who might be helpful down the road).
Most new entrepreneurs, over time, naturally develop a certain level of comfort from dealings with customers, vendors, and others in their day-to-day transactions. So even people who are new to networking can form meaningful relationships and communicate with a little practice.