Many business owners dread this time of year – it’s the time of year that despite best laid plans, the year ahead can seem uncertain, especially if there’s less work to do than there was in the lead up to Christmas. However, while it may be a quiet time for day-to-day operations, this month provides the perfect opportunity to get out and sell your business.
Of course, it’s not an easy thing to do and it’s often difficult to know where to start, but with a little research, finding a good networking event can be a major boon for your business. If you’ve done your homework and are well prepared in advance, you’ll find that you can generate high-quality leads and find new opportunities that you may not have considered to date. Even if you don’t manage to develop any new or meaningful business relationships, talking to like-minded people can often give you a different perspective on the direction of your company. On the other hand, if you feel like you’ve wasted time going along to a pointless event, it’s unlikely that you’ll give over more time when the next meeting comes around. It’s also likely that you haven’t done your homework properly or followed the very simple and straightforward rules of networking in the first place.
It might seem obvious, but don’t turn up to a networking event in a crumpled suit, or worse, casual wear. Make sure you have more business cards than you’re likely to need too. More importantly though, it’s crucial that you have a clear plan of what it is you want to achieve with every conversation that you have, so if you’re looking to get your foot in the door, keep in mind that you’ll need a clear and concise outline of what your company does – you may only get a limited amount of time to get your elevator pitch across. If you can’t give an outline of your business and what you do in 30 seconds, you’re not explaining it correctly and your unique selling point (whatever that may be) won’t be clear.
Be mindful that you need to leave time to answer any questions and to listen to your conversation partner’s pitch. If you constantly talk about your business without giving the other person a chance, you won’t come across well and any possible relationship will be a non-starter. Remember that they are attending the event to build links and find possible opportunities too. Even if you don’t think you could do business together, either of you may have developed other connections that could help the other.
Networking events will give you the opportunity to meet with potential clients, possible business partners or even future investors, but it is a numbers game. That’s why it’s vital that you spread yourself out and don’t spend the entire evening talking to just one or two people – the more conversations you have, the more you’re building up your own network and spreading the word about your company. Speed networking, where you have five or ten minutes per conversation, is becoming increasingly popular. However, if you find yourself in a less structured environment, don’t hesitate to end a conversation politely when it’s appropriate.
After the event, make sure to get in touch with everyone that has given you a business card, even if you haven’t identified some of them as a potential business opportunity. It’s nice to be polite after all, and they could well advocate your product or services further down the line. But prioritise – if you’ve been given the opportunity to pitch as a direct result of the event, make sure you do so while the memory of the meeting is still fresh.
DCA Accountants and Business Advisors