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Grow your small business through networking

Networking is essential for all businesses, brand new or established. As a small business, it provides you with a platform to raise awareness about your business, form relationships, find clients and build a sustainable business while learning from the success of others.  

Networking successfully often comes from listening. If you take the time to understand what other people need and how you can help them – or vice versa – then you are more likely to create genuine relationships that will benefit you and your business in the future. As a start-up or a small business, you may not have networked before, so here are 6 tips to make sure that you get the most out of networking:

Be proactive, not reactive.

Start networking before you need it. Even if you hate networking, like most of the population, it is an essential part of business. Many people don’t take to networking naturally so try to get used to the process before you need it, after all, practice makes perfect. People often reach out for help when they need it and then expect their networks to rally around into action. Having strong network connections will come in handy when you need help. 

Have a plan.

Know what your value is and what strengths and skills you bring to the table before you start networking. If you have an idea of what you want to achieve through networking, you can avoid sounding vague or uninteresting. You’ll also be better placed to steer conversations to suit you and be able to be specific about issues that are affecting you. 

Never dismiss anyone as unimportant.

Even if you don’t think they can help you directly, they may have a valuable connection which you’d know of if you took the time to talk to them. They may also come in handy further down your businesses life cycle or become more relevant to you if you ever change sectors, or jobs. If you’re involved in a group conversation, you may only want to network with 1 of them and naturally put up a but pay attention to everyone so that you don’t miss any relevant information.

Connect other people.

As you find out about different people you may figure out how a couple of them can help each other – go out of your way to connect these people.  

Prepare yourself.

If you can get it, look at the list of attendees before you get there so that you have an idea of who you’d like to meet. Make sure that you have a way to swap contact details close to hand. Business cards are a well-established tool of networking and allow the conversation to continue to flow rather than taking down details on your phone. 

Stay informal and interesting.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make, especially if you’re nervous, is going into sales pitch mode. Networking is not about selling your product it's about building a genuine rapport with someone else. Keep your introduction brief, informal and interesting giving people the appetite to ask you for more information. 

Most people will be more receptive than you think, so never be afraid to introduce yourself. In today's competitive marketplace success often comes down to who you know. 

Networking can come in many forms: attending an industry event, a specific networking breakfast, developing relationships with co-workers, directors or even running into and forging a connection with another professional. Start small with friends and family and by attending dedicated events which are designed to help you grow your network.

One such event is the Northern Business Expo. It's free, and gives you the chance to try out four different networking companies to get a feel for their styles. You can also try out some speed networking sessions run by Dell Small Business, and request to attend an exclusive networking breakfast before the show opens. It's free to come along and do all this, and you'll be networking with thousands of business owners, professionals and entrepreneurs. Simply get your free ticket online now! As it's the biggest business event in the North of England you 'll also find over 100 exhibitors, fantastic skills workshops, inspirational keynotes and even a chance to win £5k cash!
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