A guest post from Eric Jones
Technology enables aspiring small business owners to launch and operate enterprises from their own living rooms, but no matter the business, failing to pursue a human element limits potential and stunts the opportunity for long-term success. Expensive websites may convey more information than traditional business cards, but the priceless act of shaking someone’s hand and looking him or her in the eye establishes a rapport foreign to the digital world.
If you’re starting a business or looking for the edge to help your stagnant company grow, consider breaking eye contact with Google and enjoying some face time with a real-live person.
Focus on Relationships
To some, the term “networking” evokes a connotation of self-centered pandering for favors, and many people treat it this way. The kind of networking that supports business, however, values relationship over what you can get from someone. Similar to building a friendship, authentic networking values honesty, time and a natural give and take. While it may be counterintuitive, going into a networking situation looking to use a colleague for everything he or she is worth is the easiest way to ensure you won’t build relationships.
Relational networking offers a rewarding way to do business. As you and fellow prosperity seekers foster a relationship, you’re able to feed off of each other’s success and learn from failures. Perhaps a fellow small business owner is looking to invest in his or her business in a responsible way. You can share how American Express business credit cards offered business-related rewards, for example. And when you’re looking for new bookkeeping software, a reliable network of friends will give you the first-person insight that online forums can’t.
Know Your Elevator Speech
Business networking won’t bear any results unless you’re able to accurately and honestly describe your business, it’s struggles and how you are facing challenges. Forming an elevator speech will help spark business-related conversations without having to set up entire appointments. Certainly, there are times when the opportunity to build a relationship would involve your elevator speech, but short 2-4 minute summary of the state of your business can open windows when you don’t see a door.
When these small opportunities present themselves, each word must make an impression. As you begin to describe your business, lead with the point that you most want the listener to remember. Perhaps you’re struggling to facilitate new business after a major breakthrough, or you’re trying something no one has ever done. Outline why your business has succeeded and what stands in the way of further growth. If you see an opportunity, ask if the listener has experienced similar successes or hardships.
Harvard Business School’s Elevator Pitch Builder is a useful tool to crystallize your business testimony.
Give Before You Get
When meeting up with someone in person, your business sense may tell you to get whatever you can as fast as possible, but the relational aspect of face-to-face interaction makes this position easily transparent. When building a network of colleagues, be the first to offer a favor, and don’t negotiate for repayment. Maybe you can code websites for a fellow business owner that needs to get his or her business online. This act of service will establish trust and further accelerate a professional relationship.