Wednesday, September 13, 2006

10 Networking Tips for Home-Based Businesses

Referrals are a powerful way to increase your sales, and networking is a proven way to generate referrals for your business. When you reach out to other business owners, you are forging an alliance which can benefit everyone involved. Networking involves meeting with business peers and discussing ways that you can work together to improve sales. For example, if you operate a dry cleaning store, you can begin networking with local clothing retailers. They can provide referrals for your service and, in turn, you can refer your existing customers to these retailers when your clients need to purchase new clothes.

You can join local business organizations to meet other business owners who are looking for the exact same thing you are: more business. By banding together and offering referrals, everyone benefits.

If you cannot find any suitable networking organizations, you can create your own by contacting businesses in your area that share your interest in networking. You will have the added bonus of making new contacts as you form your organization.

In addition, there are also several national networking organizations that utilize the power of the Internet to increase referrals and bring many companies together.

Here are ten tips to becoming a successful networker.

1. Set your networking goals. What do you hope to achieve by networking with your peers? More sales, more customer leads, or just helpful information? Setting your goals now will help you focus your networking efforts.

2. Join existing networking groups. There is power in numbers -- and that certainly applies to networking. By becoming a member of several groups, you can ensure that you will be creating more opportunities for your business.

3. Become a volunteer. If you have extra time, you can volunteer for local or state events. As you get yourself out in the public eye, your company will become more visible.

4. Get informed ahead of time. The more you know, the more your peers will be drawn to you. Make sure that you are prepared before joining a networking group or attending an event.

5. Be sincere. Don't say things you don't mean or make offers you have no intention of keeping. In networking, as in business in general, maintaining your reputation is critical. If you are disingenuous, your peers will eventually find out, and word will get around.

6. Work on your communication skills. You will need to be able to state clearly what you are looking for when you are networking. This way, your peers will be able to provide you with the help that you need.

7. Learn to share. If something has worked for you in the past, do not keep it a secret. Sharing your successes -- and even your failures -- with your peers will build relationships and gain you even more networking partners.

8. Work on your follow-through. Many busy business owners get caught up and forget to follow through on networking promises. Don't disappoint your new networking associates. Follow through if you want to receive good referrals from your peers.

9. Word your questions carefully. When you are asking questions at a networking event, try to make them open-ended. This will result in better responses.

10. Be indispensable. If you have a great deal of knowledge, you can become a networking resource on your own. By sharing your knowledge, you will be gaining more potential referrals and more networking partners.


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