An exciting thing happened my new business cards arrived. Woo Hoo. I promptly gave them out to my family members and put the rest back in the box.
But what use are my new business cards if they are sitting in a pretty flowery holder on my desk? How will people know all about what’s on offer if I don’t tell them or give them my card?
I realised it’s time to start “networking” again.
But I was undecided and dithering on where to go. I wanted to find groups more local to me instead of travelling in and out of Central London.
Since we moved it’s fair to say I haven’t been out much. Networking that is. After all we’ve got the house to renovate, the garden to maintain, washing to do and endless domestic goddess duties to carry out let alone finding the time or making the effort to go to networking meetings.
And with me percolating on my new venture I didn’t feel comfortable heading out trying to promote and market my old services which weren’t really in my heart anymore. So I didn’t, I stayed at home and pulled up some more weeds from the garden.
However, I have enough experience under my belt to know that me sitting at home with my new business cards and shiny new website is unlikely to bring an abundance of new connections or clients. Well it might, but I could be waiting a while couldn’t I?
So I took the plunge, did my research and found some local groups near me to try out. I called the organiser of one group to confirm my attendance which meant I could not opt out as I said I’d be there. There is nothing like a commitment to another to ensure you show up.
And true to my word I changed out of my comfy jeans and flip-flops, put my glad rags on, blow dried my hair and headed out-out.
I felt pretty nervous before hand, I kind of knew what to expect but felt ever so rusty. And as for a 45 second elevator pitch, oh man I hadn’t done one of those for a long time. But I stood up said my piece with a smile on my face and sat back down again. Phew. Done.
There was absolutely no need for me to worry, I had a lovely time meeting and talking to some new people, getting to know them and sharing more about me and what I do. Plus I like to talk which really isn’t a surprise as if you have met me in person you’ll know I do like a good natter.
Over the years I have had a lot of experience of attending all sorts of meetings and even hosting my own. But still, it feels daunting when you go somewhere new, a little bit like starting a new school all over again doesn’t it?
Here’s the thing about “networking” most petite business owners dread it.
Because we know we have to be on our best behaviour with our sales face on and go in and make an impact and be memorable. With a refined and magical elevator pitch that describes who we are and what we do so everyone else knows precisely what we’re all about so they can tell others about us and all of this has to be said in no more than a minute. That’s a challenge in itself.
But it’s not the words that come out of our mouths that makes the biggest impact. It’s simply who we are as people.
Is there a spark or a connection with someone else?
Do they feel like they want to get to know you better? As you could offer a similar service to someone else but people will naturally be drawn to someone they gel with.
What about you, who do you resonate with? Is there someone you feel you must talk to?
The belief is you have to go networking because that’s where your clients are waiting for you.
But it doesn’t always work like that does it?
Because the other attendees are there to find their new clients too.
They are not intentionally going to networking meetings to find you.
They are more likely to be thinking about whether or not the people will be nice and welcoming?
Their minds may be buzzing with questions on whether or not they have to eat lunch and talk at the same time? What to say? Should they have brought more business cards? Definitely that they should have worn their other shoes. And not forgetting how on earth they are going to tell others all about them and their petite business in less than a minute?
You know the similar mind chatter that you and I may have too.
But what if we all approached "networking" with the mind set of just being present and open to who we may meet. With absolutely no big expectations of finding our next client within the room. Our task is to be focused on giving others the opportunity to get to know us better and we get to know them.
And it always helps to have an intention of why you're going in the first place? Are you looking for good contacts? Do you need someone to test something out? Do you simply like me want to make friends with people nearby? As I realised that I talk to my neighbours and the people in the shops here always love to chat. But they are not friends. So for me my intention is two fold. To meet some new local people who may become friends as well as meet new people who may be interested in working with me in the future. I know why I am going.
This approach changes everything. It takes the pressure off. We can enjoy ourselves. Be ourselves, natural, relaxed and more engaging. Have fun. Enjoy our lunch even. With no ulterior motive what-so-ever.
As you never know who is going to be in the room. They may not look like your kind of people but maybe they are? Or maybe someone they know is ideal for you. This is when the magic happens. It may not be instant. It may take some time. A long time even. I once had a new client following an event I did five years previously. Hopefully you won't have to wait that long!
But the point is when you show up, you've already taken a step forward and the seeds have been planted. You have to trust they will grow. Some will flourish. Some will not. That's the reality isn't it?
Life finds a way of bringing the right people together.
The saying goes "it’s not what you know it’s who you know" and this is so true when it comes to business and referrals.
But I believe more importantly it’s not just who you know.
It’s who knows you?
When people really know you. And I don't just mean your job title and elevator pitch. If they feel they know the real you, understand what you're all about and whether or not you can help them only then will they decide to be your next client.
They may not want to make a decision yet. And are happy to become a member of your tribe so you can establish more of a relationship first.
Or they may not want or need what you offer but they know others that do.
And this is what definitely works about "networking" and why we torture......I mean enjoy ourselves in being brave and going along. But I prefer to call it "connecting".
As for me “connecting” remains very high on my agenda in the weeks ahead and so far I’ve made some lovely new human connections, was also gifted with recommendations of other new groups to try out locally, (which I will!) I've been invited out for a cup of tea and a chat and someone expressed an interest in joining the Social Collective. All great results.
So the thought of going was far worse than the actual doing. It really wasn’t so bad after all, progress was made and I know I’ll be going back again.
Just need to order some more business cards.