One of the most important parts of growing your business is networking. I know today everyone wants to be able to gain new customers online using social media, and internet marketing, but in my opinion, face to face networking is the best way to grow your business.

Here are some tips that I have learned over the years. Use them next time you’re at an event and let me know how they helped break the ice.

Start off by walking up to someone random. I know this is going to be scary, but you won’t be the only person there looking lost. Just remember, they’re just like you.

“They all put their pants on one leg at a time. They all use bathrooms. They all eat. They all function the same way. People are people.” – Larry King

1. Ice breaker – Here is a good ice breaker when meeting new people.

Hi my name is _______ what is yours? Nice to meet you, ________.

Why are you here today or what made you come to this event? Talk a little bit about that. Once the conversation starts to die go to the next.

2. What do you do, ______? (You want to repeat their name after each question. This is for two reasons. It helps you remember, and makes them feel like you’re interested in them.

3. After they tell you what they do, ask them what’s it like running your business. Example, maybe you meet someone that runs a HVAC business. You could ask them something like… Mike, how is it working in the extreme heat fixing someone’s HVAC unit?

The key is to focus on them and not focus on you. You don’t want to keep yapping your story at them. Don’t sell yourself. Listen.

After you asked the first three questions you should have good conversation going on. From the first 3 questions, you may have some other questions you could ask them. Just keep the conversation going. If the conversation starts to die, ask these.

4. I love helping other entrepreneurs grow their businesses. What type of clients or referrals work best for you? (You want to ask this so you can build the beginning of the relationship. By now they should realize that you’re not trying to sell them but help them.)

If you can think of someone that needs their services bring it up. Let’s say you had a friend that was talking about his HVAC the other day. Ask him for one of their cards because you want to give it to someone that may need help with their product or service.

AGAIN. Do not sell yourself!

By this time they should be asking you about you. Just give them a few short answers to their questions but don’t sell yourself. You have already done your selling behind the behind the scenes by listening to them and wanting to help. Once you’re done talking, just say Hey, ______, It was nice to meet you at this event. Hopefully I’ll see you around the next one. Have a great day, evening, etc.

Now you may be asking, how do I find events?

All you need to do is a little research. You can use tools like Facebook, Google, etc.

For example, Facebook search or Google “business networking Greenville SC”, “professional networking Greenville SC”, “entrepreneur networking Greenville SC”, etc. You’ll see public post from people on FB and or searches on Google.

The Chamber of commerce always have events. Most areas have one. Example, Greenville: http://greenvillechamber.org/. Most are paid but they’re 15-30 dollars.

If you have the money, join a BNI group. You can visit a group twice without joining, so you could network a little bit and get some cards to build relationships.

http://www.bni.com/FindaChapter/tabid/53/Default.aspx

You can also use sites like www.meetup.com and www.eventbrite.com.

http://www.meetup.com/topics/professional-networking/us/sc/greenville/

https://www.eventbrite.com/d/nc–greenville/networking/

If you have any other networking tips, write them in the comments below.