Networking to find new customers

Follow these tips to make new business connections.

Networking can be a powerful way to discover new prospects for your business – but many small business owners don’t know how to get the best results from their networking efforts.

Try these three tips to start building some new and beneficial business relationships.

1. Revisit your contact list

Enjoying more networking success isn’t about developing an elevator pitch – it’s about who you know, and who your contacts know!

Take a look at the people you already know. Categorize each person as either a) a potential prospect or b) someone with a contact you’d like to meet.

LinkedIn is the best place to start searching for contacts on social media. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, LinkedIn is where professionals actively network and expect to connect with colleagues, suppliers and customers.

On LinkedIn, a first-level connection allows you to see that person’s connections (unless your connection has disabled that feature). Spend some time reviewing the connections of your connections to identify people you’d like to meet.

2. Do some research on your contact

Before you reach out an existing or new connection, find out something about that person’s business, current projects or recent successes.

It’s easy to collect some background information by visiting a company webpage, doing a Google search for recent news or asking a mutual connection about that person.

Showing interest in your new contact will go a long way to building a relationship. Preparing for an introduction will also help avoid the discomfort of not knowing what to talk about and make your networking time much more productive.

3. Offer something useful or interesting

Once you’ve identified a contact and done some background research to learn about them, you may be ready to reach out – by telephone, email, or via LinkedIn.[1]

Keep in mind that people are approached by sellers all the time, so their radar is likely up. You certainly don’t want to be lumped in with pesky salespeople asking for “a few minutes of time” to connect. Instead, start a relationship off right by offering to do something valuable or by sending something interesting to your new contact.

Consider any of these gestures:

  • Emailing an interesting industry article or news piece – providing it’s not about you![1]
  • Offering to connect your contact to a potential customer, supplier or industry colleague you know.
  • Inviting your contact to a networking meeting so both of you can meet new contacts and have some time together.
  • Sharing an online business resource you found helpful in your business. For example, a free planning tool.
  • Alerting your contact to a business opportunity you found online, such as a request for proposals (RFP).

Any of these actions will help you to break the ice and stand out as someone worth knowing.

If you are being introduced to someone by an existing contact, provide some brief introduction language to your connector along with any of the above items.

Making contact

When you finally get a chance to speak with your contact, be prepared to do more listening than talking.

Briefly introduce yourself and then listen carefully – in general, people want to talk about their businesses. And that’s a good thing, because the more they say the more you’ll understand how to help your new prospect with your products or services.

Lastly, be sure to follow up or follow through on anything you discussed during your call. It’s extremely important to your new relationship that you are viewed as someone trustworthy and genuine.

Next steps

  • Update your LinkedIn profile with current information, work samples and endorsements.
  • Ensure your marketing strategies comply with applicable laws.
  • Schedule time each day to identify and research new contacts for your business online.
  • Bridge the cash flow gap between new sales and monthly expenses by speaking with a Scotiabank Small Business Advisor about a business line of credit and business credit card.

[1] Canada’s laws and regulations about electronic communication will affect how you can legally reach out to existing and potential customers.  Be sure to investigate these rules before doing so.