Linda Wellbrock, CEO and founder of Leading Women Entrepreneurs (LWE), a networking organization that recognizes outstanding women in business, knows a thing or two about making connections.
Since 2011, Linda has hosted hundreds of networking events across the country and has seen the power of face time in helping women build confidence and grow their businesses. "Whether you're just starting out as an entrepreneur or trying to take your company to the next level, there's no substitute for getting out there and meeting people," says Linda. Here, she shares her secrets for making great connections.
1. Radiate confidence.
Whether you're meeting strangers at a professional conference or describing your business to your in-laws, start with eye contact, a firm handshake, and a smile. Then, "listen more than you talk," says Wellbrock. Finally, direct the chat toward a shared business interest or an expertise the other person may offer.
2. Embrace your wins.
When you meet a potential business partner, describe a moment in your company that you're really proud of, like a big investment you earned. You'll impress the listener and build momentum for your next encounter.
3. Meet more people.
Wellbrock has witnessed the beginnings of countless mentor relationships, investment deals, and business partnerships at the networking events she attends and organizes. "I always say that no one can do business with you if they don't know you exist," she says.
4. Get out of your comfort zone.
Expand your networking circle doing things like tagging along with a friend to a business conference or lunch. "Some of your biggest professional breakthroughs could come from those experiences," says Wellbrock.
5. Introverts: don't hide.
Introducing yourself to dozens of strangers can be a special kind of torture for shy types. But you'll never get better at it if you don't practice. Be prepared, carry business cards, and start in a small networking group. "Whether you like it or not, networking is the key to building your business," says Wellbrock.
6. Find a business group - or start one!
You might be surprised that many towns, even small ones, have active business groups. If there's not one that represents your exact industry, that's okay. "The point is meet with people who have a business and a goal," says Wellbrock. "Try to talk through one challenge from each member per month."
7. Look online.
The best websites for online networking are ones you probably already use: LinkedIn and Facebook. To find like-minded entrepreneurs on Facebook, click on "Groups" under "Explore." Under the "Discover" tab, scroll to "Professional Networking.” On LinkedIn, click on the “Work” tab, then “Groups.” “These people can be a built-in support system,” says Linda.
8. Be patient.
Only rarely will meeting someone once lead immediately to doing business together. Effective networking requires upkeep and relationship-building. Greet people at conferences you’ve met before or send a quick email to check on a challenge that someone mentioned.
For more information about Leading Women Entrepreneurs, go to lweworld.com.
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