Meeting New Business Partners is Just Like Asking Your Crush on a Date – Intimidating But Worth It!
By Molly Young
Dating can be intimidating. Asking someone out for the first time, taking them on a date, filling hours of conversation, and then following up with a phone call or a text the next day so that you can hopefully go out again sometime all takes guts and determination. But dating is necessary to find the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Dating can also be fun. Learning more about a person that intrigues you, sharing a fun experience together, and holding the hand of the person you really like all give you butterflies in your stomach while you are in the midst of falling in love.
Dating can seem like networking sometimes. Networking can be intimidating too. But networking is extremely important for any young entrepreneur who is looking to meet clients or partners to advance their business. Here are a few ways to make networking effective and stress-free!
A smile shows friendliness, confidence and pleasure with meeting someone. That, in turn, makes the other person feel welcomed and important so they have a positive feeling about interacting with you—even prior to either of you speaking. This initial impression will help set the tone for the rest of your conversation.
2. Use Names
Everyone enjoys hearing their name, so be sure to say their name as you’re meeting them and then again throughout the conversation. Remembering people’s names makes them feel more comfortable with you and makes them feel as though they are important to you. It may also help you remember their name!
However, everyone forgets another person’s name from time to time. If this happens to you, don’t be embarrassed. Simply introduce yourself again, allowing them to re-introduce themselves. If they’ve already used your name, then simply admit that you’ve forgotten theirs and ask them to remind you. Remember to help people if you see them struggling to remember your name too—they’ll appreciate it!
3. Be Conversational
When people enjoy talking to you, they will remember you in a positive way and be eager to see you again. Starting a conversation with someone new can be a challenge. Be sure to read the headlines of your daily paper or watch the news before engaging in a networking opportunity. This will show that you are a well-rounded and well-informed individual. Having a topic (other than your business) to talk about starts the conversation in a casual and inviting way.
Learn as much as possible about the people you are meeting so you can ask questions and find connections with them. Checking their Facebook page or asking others that know both of you is a good way to find further information about the person. People love to talk about themselves…they’re experts! So asking questions will make them feel engaged. Be sure to ask open-ended questions so the conversation can go deeper than just “yes” or “no” responses.
People don’t always remember exactly what your topic of conversation is, but they remember how you made them feel. Being a well-rounded and inviting conversationalist will open doors for you in many, and sometimes unexpected, ways.
4. Be Observant
People appreciate it when you are paying attention and listening to what they have to say. Others notice if you are not engaged in the conversation. Engage fully in the conversation you are having, and respond with proper body language (such as eye contact and a nodding head). Another way to show interest is with “follow-up,” for example: Open-ended questions to continue to the conversation.
Pay attention to the person with whom you are speaking. Why? If you don’t, you might miss ways in which you and this individual can partner and help one another. Small details are thrown into every conversation. Paying attention and making mental notes can help you now – or in the future – in terms of an ongoing relationship with a new client or business partner.
Being observant also includes making sure that you are not monopolizing the time of the other person. Pay attention to how much time you are using, and give them the ability to exit if necessary. This is one indicator that you are a considerate person with whom to do business.
5. Follow Up
Once you’ve had a nice conversation with someone, ask them for their contact information and let them know that you’d like to follow up with them. You can offer to send an interesting article about whatever it was you were discussing, or you could send them information about your business. Once you have their contact information, be sure to use it! The purpose of networking is to continue the relationship so that both parties benefit in the long run. A key mantra in networking is to do what you say and say what you do. Don’t leave an individual hanging if you’ve promised to get in touch.
Networking is fun, especially when it results in a solid business move for your new venture. Not all networking will pay off immediately. But it’s those instances where you meet a big new client, or a business mentor, or a large investor that you know all the hard work you’ve put into networking pays off. The same excitement that gives you butterflies on a first date can occur when meeting a person who can help you take your business to the next level. Enjoy it!
1. Practice. Have your students simulate a networking event. Either in a group or one on one, encourage them to practice asking open ended questions, showing appropriate body language, and asking for contact information so they can follow up. Have the students critique one another on their networking skills and discuss ways they could improve.
2. Who’s in your Network? In Module 3 of the Young Entrepreneur Foundation’s Entrepreneur in the Classroom free curriculum a discussion is led about Funding Options for a new business. One of these funding options is friends and family. Have your students brainstorm a list of people they could talk to about partnering in a business venture. What makes the people that they brainstorm potentially good partners? How would they approach these individuals to begin a discussion about partnering?
Additional: Consider using Entrepreneur in the Classroom free curriculum Alternative Exercise A-1 titled “Speed Networking” during a class period.
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The NFIB Young Entrepreneur Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization promoting the importance of small business and free enterprise to the nation’s youth. More information is available at www.NFIB.com/YEF. The Foundation is associated with the National Federation of Independent Business; NFIB is the nation’s leading small business association, with offices in Washington, D.C. and all 50 state capitals.
Entrepreneur In The Classroom. The NFIB Young Entrepreneur Foundation Entrepreneur-in-the-Classroom (EITC) supplemental curriculum exposes students to entrepreneurship and the necessary steps to take an idea and turn it into a business. The free curriculum can be integrated into classes teaching a variety of subjects including music, art, fashion, business and many more. You must be registered to view the full Entrepreneur-in-the-Classroom curriculum.
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