Adventures in New Business – A First Networking Event Experience

Like many other small business owners out there, I did not go into business in order to become a salesperson.  It is something I should have anticipated, but I cannot say I was prepared for it with any honesty.  I generally feel much more comfortable in my spreadsheets and invoices than I do self-promoting.  However, if I want my bookkeeping business to succeed, then I have to be able to learn and use marketing tools effectively.

Research shows that referrals are an extremely effective marketing tool.  So one of my first events in self-promoting was at a local networking event.  It was a casual group, mostly meeting over drinks to get to know each other and pass around some business cards.  I thought it would be a great first experience, but I had entered it with some trepidation.  As a perfectionist, I kept looking over my business cards, seeing nothing but their flaws.  I kept questioning where I was supposed to sit, how to enter into the conversations, and how to exchange cards in a way that wasn’t as awkward as it felt.  I was in my head so much that I only managed to hand off one business card during that first half an hour, and the exchange felt clumsy and forced.  Yeah… sales was definitely not my strong suit.

I took an opportunity to regroup in the ladies room.  I took a breath, looked in the mirror, and forced a confident smile.  I told myself that for the remainder of the gathering, I was going to make sure each person there got a copy of my business card and a chance to hear the services that my business provides.  I was going to pretend that I didn’t care if the other person likes my cards or if I thought they didn’t need my service.  I reminded myself that even if this didn’t produce any leads, it would give me more practice promoting my business so that I can become more comfortable with those exchanges.

The remainder of the event went much more smoothly, even if I was well outside my comfort zone.  I did have one more awkward exchange.  One woman that spent more time in her phone than talking with the other networkers gave what sounded suspiciously like a disgusted “Oh…” when I told her what I did and produced a copy of my business card for her.  She left my card on the table when she finished her drink and departed.  In many ways, this was one of my most valuable exchanges.  It was a reminder that one negative response while networking doesn’t have to affect the rest of my networking experience.  It is never a waste to give out a business card.  The waste is believing that someone doesn’t need your services (or know someone that may need your services), and not making that connection based on that assumption.

In the end, the event was a success.  It produced a really good lead regardless of its casual set-up and low turnout.  And, even more importantly, I had my first taste of networking with other entrepreneurs.  Following events were less intimidating and I was able to focus more on making those connections.  By continuing to push myself outside my comfort zone, I become a better promoter for my business and find better opportunities for continual business growth.

 

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This blog is intended to provide informal business and bookkeeping information to educate the general public.  It should not be interpreted as individualized tax, accounting, legal or other business and professional advice.  Always seek the assistance of a professional that is aware of your specific situation prior to taking any action for yourself or your business.