For any entrepreneur, developing your networking skills is critical for success. Unfortunately, not everyone is completely comfortable jumping into a crowd and shaking hands. But with the right set of tips, you'll be the talk of the town after your next networking event.
The Young Entrepreneurship Council asked Luigi Wewege, president and CEO of Vivier Group, to share his advice on how to build better relationships that result in a greater return.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Entrepreneurs can often be a bit shy or feel daunted about asking those more successful than themselves for help or an endorsement. One method is sending a well-crafted, personalized letter. This will always stand out due to the contrast with the online impersonal age we now live in and the effort to develop a relationship. Although the person may not reply, this method has led to some of my best contacts.
Build Your Personal Brand
The key to facilitating a casual networking connection into a big lasting impact is via self packaging or personal branding. It's natural for people to research your background once they've met you and if they find good information, it can lead to many synergies for your company. Networking aside, a strong online presence is of paramount importance and cultivating a powerful personal brand can ultimately yield tremendous ROI.
Avoid the Hard Sell
Most people who deal with entrepreneurs on a regular basis are accustomed to glib sales talk and slick tactics. To stand out from the fluff, be candid, transparent, and honest about your product or service. Authenticity comes from an honest portrayal of yourself. Talk about why you got into this company to begin with. That is where your best pitch lies.
Attend Industry Conferences
Attending conferences and conventions related to your industry, or even other business-related events, are the single most important out-of-office activity to improve networking. To improve your personal brand, attending a conference and being a keynote speaker, or even having a company booth will enable you to meet and expand your brand exposure and thus attract clients.
There are hundreds of these types of events every month, and it is important to actively seek these out and identify which of them would be the most beneficial to attend.
Use Contactually to Simplify the Networking Process
Contactually, a CRM tool that is designed to help business people maximize the ROI of their relationships, is a great tool to keep up with contacts. My favorite feature is that it automatically lets you know when important relationships are going cold, so you can take the corrective steps to preserve them. You never know when you'll need a new job or if these contacts can help you win a new contract at some point in the future.
Nail Your Pitch
Before meeting any important contacts, you should take the time and practice how you present the information about you and your company. There are many entrepreneurs who video tape their pitch and introduction prior to a meeting so they know where to adjust their messaging and body language.
Focus on What You Have to Offer
Over the years, numerous well-intentioned people attend networking events with the mindset of what can they get out of relationships. Instead, one should rather have an approach focusing on what you can offer to the people you meet. By doing this, you will not only find yourself having better conversations, but you'll meet many more interesting people which will lead to additional business deals for you.