11 tips to successfully network in a Chamber of Commerce or professional group
"I joined the Chamber. Never got any business. Waste of money." How many people do you know that have said those words? Maybe you've said them. Unfortunately, it's easy to blow yourself up. Here's how.
1. Join but never show up. It's the "Is there a doctor in the house" mentality. You join under the impression business will flock to you. How will people know about you if you are never there?
Instead: Show up at meetings and events. Be low key. Meet people. Take a sincere interest in what they do.
2. Arrive late and leave early. You joined a committee. That's a good step. Sometimes you skip meetings without giving advance notice. You arrive late. You leave before the meeting is over. You feel this communicates you are important. Your other committee members think you "think you are better than them" or you are rude.
Instead: Put in the time. Arrive early. Chat with the other early arrivals. Stay a few minutes afterwards. Always be prepared, having done your homework and reviewed the agenda.
3. Join and try to take over running the place. It happens more often than you imagine. Big city person arrives in a small town. They join a group and realize things could be run a lot better. They decide to take over. They don't know the political landscape. They discover the "Old Guard" might not run the best events, but they are world class when it comes to freezing out someone they don't like.
Instead: Lay low. Get to know the major players. Ask how you can be of the most help.
4. Commit but don't follow through. You serve on a committee. You take on part of the project. Maybe it's soliciting for fundraising. You've dropped the ball. Others need to pick up the slack. You gain a reputation of someone who cannot be relied upon.
Instead: Only commit to what you can deliver. Under-promise and over-deliver. You will gain a good reputation.
5. Keep your wallet firmly closed. You attend free events, but not those where you need to spend money. You come across as not being committed to the organization. A cheapskate too.
Instead: Attend the paid events, especially the "see and be seen" ones.
6. See life as "What can you do for me." You see everyone as a potential prospect or someone of no importance. You don't maintain relationships unless that person can do something for you. "Give to get" is alien to you.
Instead: Reverse the situation. Try to figure out what you can do to benefit the other people you meet. People have all sorts of needs. Ones leading to business might not be front and center. Give it time. Business can come from unexpected places.
7. Advancing an idea without building support beforehand. It's another common problem. You have what you think is a great idea. You stand up in your committee and present it. The room is silent. There's no buy in. You get frustrated.
Instead: By now you've met the key players. Meet with each ahead of time, before the meeting. Explain your idea. Let them see you have thought it through. Ask for their feedback and suggestions. Answer questions. They will likely stand up at the committee meeting and say: "I think that's a great idea." Others should fall into line.
8. Become a gossip. Most organizations have factions. There are petty jealousies and rivalries. Once you choose a side, you alienate others. Where's the benefit?
Instead: Focus on the mission. If you are drawn into these situations, try to take the high road. You don't have all the facts.
9. Be a late payer. You know some of those people! They commit to buying tickets for an event. Their check never arrives. Someone needs to chase after them. Word gets around.
Instead: Be one of the first to pay.
10. You don't advertise. The organization has a newsletter. They hold events. They solicit sponsorships and advertising. You don't raise your hand.
Instead: Invest some money. Let people know about your business and that you support the mission of the organization.
11. Think the deck is stacked against you. I'll never get business because this other guy has it all sewn up. He's the "Go to" guy around here for my profession.
Instead: Realize not everyone is already tied to one professional. They might have niches. They might be coasting after years of developing their market. Some clients might feel unloved.
Certain rules of life stand the test of time. As a banker, when discussing Chambers of Commerce explained: "You get out of it what you put into it."
Networking and referrals can provide a steady source of leads, especially for minority-women-veteran-disability-LGBTQ-owned small businesses.
For additional education and guidance for greater success during challenging times, visit Voya’s Small Business Resource Center. Learn about Voya's Just Right AdvantageTM program which helps minority-women-veteran-disability-LGBTQ-owned business and not-for-profit organizations by supporting business growth and resiliency, and providing support to help their employees save and better prepare for retirement.