Successful entrepreneurs go beyond just making the acquaintance of likely clients. They typically maintain a wide range of connections in a number of different fields. Why? Here are six reasons.
1. Referrals. Some of your best referral sources may turn out to be people who would never be candidates to become clients. Don't focus exclusively on current and former clients in your quest for referrals. Consider also other entrepreneurs who share your target market, people who work for companies that might hire you (even when those people are not decision-makers), and folks who seem to have a strong network themselves.
2. Leads for places to speak, network, or write articles. Your connections can often help you market yourself more effectively by suggesting where you might gain more visibility or make new contacts. Word of mouth from people in the know is often the best way to discover important venues like these.
3. Information about what's going on in your field or with a particular company. When you need to research trends and current happenings in order to position yourself correctly or close a specific deal, it's a godsend to be able to simply ask someone who has an answer at the ready.
4. Support. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely road, especially when you are low on client work. Your connections can serve as sounding boards, sources of inspiration, a cheering section, accountability partners, or help you brainstorm.
5. Testimonials, references and endorsements. It's not only clients that can speak to the quality and value of your work. Your connections can write you testimonials, endorse or recommend you (on LinkedIn or Yelp, for example), or serve as peer references. This can be especially helpful when you are new in business or changing directions.
6. Suggestions for valuable resources. A busy, successful entrepreneur needs to hire helpers or specialists, identify helpful books to read or classes to take, and find good deals on services and equipment. Your network can help with locating all of these essentials.
All these possible ways that others can help in your business make it clear that you need a strong network of contacts in order to succeed as an entrepreneur.
So while you are busily making contact with potential clients, don't forget to also spend time connecting with colleagues, and staying in touch with family, friends, neighbors, and former co-workers. Your contacts can contribute a lot more than just opportunities for sales conversations. They can provide the connections, information, and resources to propel your business to success.
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