If you’re new to networking, building relationships with other contractors in your industry can be an intimidating task.
The truth is, networking doesn’t have to be complicated. We have found the most success by keeping it simple, preparing ourselves with a few conversation starters, focusing on building a foundation for future collaborations and being willing to keep trying until something clicks.
Networking isn’t optional
In a referral driven industry, neglecting to network with professionals within your industry and the industries you most frequently work with is a death wish for your company. When an emergency water damage situation arises, you need people all over your region that know who you are and what you do and trust your work enough to recommend you to friends, coworkers or clients.
Networking makes sure your name is the first to come to mind for the professionals most likely to run into your potential clients. This is why we stress the importance of establishing relationships with the “first responders,” the plumbers, insurance agents or clean up crews who are the first phone call homeowners make when faced with water damage.
Networking isn’t optional, but it also doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s what you need to know about keeping it simple when you’re making connections.
Make connections first, talk about business later
First things first, don’t make the mistake of thinking networking is all about finding new clients quickly. Would you give your business to someone you only just met? Definitely not! You shouldn’t expect the connections you are making to want to talk business from the start.
Instead, focus on creating a foundational relationship that may evolve into something more in the future. Honestly, good networking comes down to following the golden rule–treating others as you want to be treated. It may seem cliche, but think about what type of professional relationship you are looking. Do you want to be viewed only as a potential paycheck? Or would you rather be seen as a source of mutual support and friendship in a challenging industry?
Networking should be about making connections first and then talking about business later. You can simplify your initial interactions by using conversation starters to lead the way.
How conversation starters make networking simpler
Now that you know that your main goal for networking is making new connections, not landing big business, you can stop all of the overthinking and just keep it simple.
Conversations starters that encourage small talk are exactly how we suggest you accomplish this goal. Come to each networking event prepared to talk about casual topics that are relevant to your peers by following these simple rules.
- Keep it light. It’s OK to talk about the weather, family, an upcoming holiday or your local sports team, but steer clear of the heavy topics. Politics or controversial current events are probably best left alone at networking events.
- Come with a few open ended questions. Can you imagine how easy it would be to kill a conversation with a yes or no question like, “Do you like sports?” Do better! Ask questions about what sports they like and which teams they follow.
- Listen more, talk less. Talking about yourself non stop isn’t the best way to show you are interested in connecting with others. Instead, ask a lot of questions and do a lot of listening. When you leave, jot down the names of each person you met and a few things you learned about who they are. This information could come in handy later.
- Wrap up with an invitation. Don’t leave the conversation without making it clear you are interested in connecting again. Ask for their contact information and let them know you’d like to meet for coffee, invite them to a company picnic or need another player on your softball team.
Practice makes good enough
You don’t have to be a networking rockstar to reap the benefits of making connections with professionals in your area. If your first few networking attempts feel awkward or don’t result in solid professional connections, don’t let that discourage you from trying again soon.
The more time you spend networking, the more natural it will feel. Soon, you’ll find yourself making connections in much more casual settings, like a trip to the grocery store or in line at your favorite coffee shop. These beginning relationships, led by conversation starters and small talk, could be the source of your next big referral.
At More Floods, we know just how important networking is to small business success. That’s why all of our members have access to an online network of restoration specialists all over North America. To learn more about becoming a member, and to connect with likeminded professionals, click here or call 1-866-667-3356.