A 6 Step Strategy for Success

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Small business networking can be fun and productive if you have the right strategies for 'working the room'.

Small Business Networking

Just imagine, you're in a banquet room with 60 strangers at a Chamber of Commerce mixer. How are you going to strike up a conversation with any of them (let alone get business)? It's easy if you use these simple steps.

1. Decide how many people you will get business cards from before you arrive at evetns. Keep your goal realistic, perhaps 3 – 5 people. That way, you won’t be overwhelmed with a huge number of cards to deal with when you get back to the office.

2. Within 60 seconds of entering a small business networking event, approach someone who’s standing alone and introduce yourself. Nobody likes being alone at a party. By introducing yourself to this person, you’ve just made a new friend for the rest of the evening. This person will appreciate the fact that you chose to 'break the ice' when no one else would.

3. Don’t know what to say to strike up a conversation? How about, “What brought you here tonight?” or “This is my first time here. What can you tell me about this organization.”

Here are two easy conversation starters that never fail. “Where did you get that drink?” or “Where did you get the food?” Follow these questions by introducing yourself and you've started a conversation.

4. Let's say you’ve done the small talk about the weather and sports. Now what? It's time to get to know about each other, and each other's businesses. Start with tried and true questions like “What does your company do?” or “How long have you been doing that type of work?” If you listen closely to the answers, it's amazing how interesting conversations based on these simple questions can become.

Small Business Networking

Here’s a highly effective question that is often overlooked at small business networking events; always ask “What did you do before you started working with this company?” If it’s a home based business you might word this question differently; for example, “What made you get into this type of business?”

Why is this line of questioning important? Because, knowing what the person did before their current position may lead to a connection for you. For example, let’s say that someone sells vitamins today. That may not be a match for you in terms of referrals. However, they may have been an accountant last year. Accountants , or people they deal with, may be your target market. This person could probably give you some leads. Even though that person is not an accountant anymore, he/she could put you in touch with former contacts.

5. At the end of the conversation, ask for two business cards. Be sure to say, “May I have two of your business cards? One is for me and the other is to give to a referral I may have for you.” This sentence is music to a business owner’s ears. It means that you’re going to help him promote his business, which is just what a small business networking event is for.

6. Of course, the key to all small business networking is follow-up. It does no good to meet people and collect business cards if the people are never contacted and the business cards grow old in a desk drawer. Call, write, or send a card, but be sure to follow up within 48 hours.

Small business networking is fun when you know the strategies that make it easy, and profitable for your business.

-by Anne Hilbert
Anne Hilbert is a Networking Expert
She is available for Private Coaching and Public Speaking.
Anne can be reached at:


1. Small Business Idea - Telephone technique
2. Guerilla Marketing - A word of caution

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