How to Network With Established Business Owners When You're a New Entrepreneur
Over the past few months I've found myself being in the presence of several seasoned, successful, and established business owners. Some of them were individuals that you just don't run into on a weekly basis. I'm talking about those who have built their business from the ground up while facing challenges and overcoming failures. Their company brand is both respected and recognized. I had the opportunity to have a real conversation with them and in some cases brainstorm with them. After each interaction, I left feeling like I had just a little bit more knowledge and insight on how to be a successful entrepreneur.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when networking with established business owners.
Often times when people are networking or talking with other professionals they tend to want to talk about themselves. The thought of having to get everything out about what it is that you do or have done in only a few moments is a lot of pressure. Get rid of the pressure by not doing it. When you're with someone who has accomplished what you're trying to, listen to them. Listen more than you speak. Leave them wanting to know more about you and what it is that you do. Listen to how they speak and what they say. For the most part, the way they communicate is learned. Pay attention to what it is they share and what questions they ask you. Remember, they've done this for a long time and have discovered the right and wrong way to network.
Take advantage of the opportunity in front of you. Ask them open ended questions that will allow them to answer in the way they want to. You'll find that when you do this after they've answered the question people usually continue talking and tell a personal story that explains their answer and or supports it. This gives you something to relate with them or grounds to build rapport. Keep them engaged. Ask thought provoking questions like "What was the one thing you would do different as a new business owner?". Take it a step further and get skilled at asking them questions that will help solve a business challenge you are having. You can tell a lot about a person based on the questions they ask.
You are a new entrepreneur. Be proud of it! But don't use it as an excuse. Yes, you're new in the game but you got in to it because you felt you could be successful, right? Then show it. Be confident in how you speak and have a firm handshake. Use positive phrasing when describing your challenges and strong verbs when talking about your business. Display an attentive body language and have a positive disposition to anything you may not agree with. Don't be afraid to politely share an opposing view on a topic. Most successful people enjoy the challenge of a difference of opinion. It makes them think.
Be a Student
Understand that established business owners have "been there and done that". They have knowledge and wisdom that you may not have yet acquired in your journey as an entrepreneur. Respect the fact that they most likely know more than you do about this profession. While being sure of who you are be humble and receptive to any advice they give. Take in the information and pointers they share if they give any. I'm not saying to do everything they tell you or agree with everything they say. But listen to their perspective. Take an interest in what they say. Remember, you don't know what you don't know.
Know Your Business
Most importantly, know your business. Know what it is that you are selling and who you are selling it to. Be able to clearly articulate exactly what it is you do and how it helps customers or other businesses. Know your elevator pitch. Be ready to recite it at a moments notice. Most established business owners don't have a lot of time, so when given the opportunity to network with them make their time with you memorable. Also, make your time with them valuable. You want to leave them with the impression that you know what you are doing, you will be successful, and you maybe someone they would like to collaborate with.
Use these tips the next time you are with an established business owner whom you admire and they will respect you just as much as you respect them.