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Small Biz Focus: 7 Simple Tips To Network Like A Pro

This column is sponsored by BizLaunch, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

By Tara Palacios

The summer of 2019 is here!

People are leaving for the beach and heading out of town on vacation. Good for them. The reality is as an entrepreneur the work never ends.  There is literally no rest for the weary; however, summer is the opportune time to re-evaluate your business strategy. Carpe Diem.

Need more business? Jumpstart the summer by auditing and redesigning your networking strategy. Do you find you are meeting the same people at events and not attracting new business? Are your opportunities growing or getting sparser?  Summer is the perfect time to review the types of events you attend as well as identify new business opportunities as we enter the second half of the year.

Business is built on relationships, and you need to dust off your networking plan from time-to-time. The following tips are 7 simple ways you can network like a pro for the remainder of the year:

Tip 1 — Be Strategic

Don’t attend every event. You are one person. Carefully plan the number of events you’d like to attend on a regular basis. Seek referrals for upcoming events your network found rewarding. Attend only the events where you know you can make solid connections.

Know the audience and ask for a list of participants ahead of time (some groups provide the list as part of the networking experience), also research the host organization. If you can attend an early morning networking event you can plan to work for the rest of the day. Set up a return on investment (ROI) process whereby you can evaluate if the event was meaningful. Set a budget and stick to it.

Tip 2 — Be Yourself

Be your authentic self. Don’t pretend to be someone you are not (people can read when you are not your true self). Develop your pitch into an interesting format that you feel comfortable conveying. It doesn’t have to be forced or contrived but tells the story of how you got into business and how your product/service will help your clients.

Tip 3 — Make A Lasting Impression

Something that will set you apart is to “listen” to the people you are networking with. Yes, listen. Don’t feel like you must fill the space with words. When you actively listen people take notice and feel a deep appreciation that you understand and respect them. In this fast-pace world of social media and things going viral — to make a lasting impression by being yourself and listening to others will set you apart from the rest.

Tip 4 — No Need To Close A Deal

Don’t put too much pressure on the situation. Don’t feel you must close a sale at the event. In fact, you may decide to take a softer, indirect approach where you are planning to really get to know a person before you strike up a pitch. See what you have in common with others and set a conversational tone. We do business with those we trust. Trust and credibility take time and need to be cultivated.

Tip 5 — Dress To Impress

Know your audience, know the situation and dress accordingly. I once heard a Venture Capitalist say they knew within 36 seconds whether they’d provide funding for a startup venture based on the person’s appearance as well as understanding of the opportunity. You want to make sure to have them at hello.

Tip 6 — To Card Or Not To Card

Card. Definitely card. Whether it is a business card, QR Code or pamphlet — have a way for people to remember you by or to get in touch. If you’ve made an impression with a potential client, you need to be able to get back in touch. Keep your communication tools in briefcases, pockets or bags and always have plenty on you.

Tip 7 — Follow Up

This is a critical tip. Please follow up with people you meet while networking. Take notes on the back of the business cards you collected with any action items or follow up requests for potential clients. If it is a simple note to say it was a pleasure to meet or to stay in touch — now is the opportunity. Don’t let too much time get away. Send out notes no later than 48 hours after meeting.

Networking like a pro is to make sure you have a plan and stick to it. Don’t let time get away from you strategically meeting with clients or influencers in your field. Seize the summer, and dust off your plans for the fall. It will be September before you know it.

Happy Networking!

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