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I had noticed this phenomenon in the past, but only recently has it become crystal clear to me: Entrepreneurs, even the most seasoned, have a difficult time selling themselves and their successes at networking events.
The trick to successful networking is to become the turtle, not the hare. Instead of racing for one-time quick sales, slow down. Take your time to get to know people, their businesses and their needs. Your long-term success comes from building sincere alliances with other entrepreneurs who will support your goals.
Stop trying to persuade other people. Instead, show them the value your business offers. Energize your approach to networking by addressing their real needs and concerns:
1. Put heart behind your name tag. Create a memorable, wearable greeting that reveals the uniqueness of your business. Instead of "I am a landscaper," use "I create outdoor spaces that connect people to nature." Use words and graphic images to help people remember the benefit you provide. You get more attention when the message is more about others than yourself.
2. Attend events outside your industry. Stand out from the competition by connecting with owners of businesses that provide complementary services to your customers. If you are a small-business accountant, attend conferences for lawyers and consultants who serve entrepreneurs. You can provide value to them as well as their clients.
3. Be interested in the people around you. Begin conversations by listening to what the other person needs, then communicate the benefit you provide. As you share answers to questions, you create a path to understanding how you can work together or refer business to each other.
4. Bring the best of yourself to each event. Success attracts success. Show genuine enthusiasm every time you attend a networking event. Even if you're having a bad day, speak positively about your goals and accomplishments.
5. Give away valuable information. Cooperation leads to even greater success. People go to networking events in the hope of gaining useful information. After listening to an entrepreneur's explanation of his or her business, simply share an idea that might work for him or her, or suggest a potential customer. Do not expect anything in return-help others achieve success, and they will be inspired to help you.
To overcome any shyness, volunteer as a greeter at networking events. With a specific mission, your fear of personal communication subsides. During the event, you can easily start conversations and network with people you met earlier.
Editor's note: Looking for our "Countdown to Startup" series? We've compiled it into one easy-to-use feature. Click here to read it.