Contractors like to work. What many contractors hate are the things you have to do in order to keep working. Sales, marketing, finances, etc. These are all part of being a small business owner. Near the bottom of the list of all things necessary is schmoozing. But the act of networking can really help you expand your business, especially in a slow economic market.
What is Networking?
Basically, it means you're building business contacts. By creating relationships with others in a similar business or industry, you can help bring in referrals. And it's not just a matter of shaking hands, passing off a business card, and asking people to send work your way. It does require effort. You don't need to become best friends with every contact, but you should get to know people you want in your network contacts. Passing on expertise and sharing information helps others to remember you. Networking works best when you can reciprocate and provide help to others.
Who Should You Network With?
Schmooze with the people who can send traffic your way. People in real estate can help. They know people who own property. By reaching out to realtors, mortgage officers, and management companies, you can be the one they send clients to whenever they are asked. Anyone who supplies materials can be a resource for referrals. Contractors who specialize in other types of work can also be part of your network.
Where Do You Network?
It's not easy to truly network from your office or while you're on the job. You need to have face to face contact to really schmooze. Conventions, trade shows, home improvement stores, real estate offices, seminars, classes, parties, sporting events, just about anywhere. Always have business cards on hand and a smile on your face.
How Do You Network?
- Focus on what you can do for them and not what they can do for you. Think about how much you would want to help a person who is committed to helping you out. Once people know you can be passionate about what they are doing... they're never going to see you as a schmoozer but as someone they want in their network.
- Always listen more than you talk. When you make them the center of attention, you'll have a friend for life. Everyone loves to talk about what they do and talk about themselves. But don't just hear them, truly listen to what they're saying. Learn about them and you'll get a better idea on how you can help their business succeed. When you can do that, they'll tell everyone they know about you and your services.
- Help them remember you. Always keep the business card on hand. You don't need to through your tri-fold, full-color brochure at them but you should give them a quality card with your name, number, email, and website on it. If you can, make sure the back of the business card is blank so that they can write out a quick note to themselves on who you are and where they met you.
- Follow up with them. Don't just get acquainted with someone and then hope you can ring them up for a favor several months later. And don't stalk them by calling several times a day and waiting outside their door with flowers every morning. But follow up a week later to touch base, share a bit of juicy information, and remind your new contact that you're there to help them.