By Jennifer Covello

If you’re a small business owner, you’ve likely been to a networking event or two with the hopes of engaging a new client or perhaps meeting a mentor to coach you through your latest business challenge.

Whether you do it face-to-face or online, expanding your circle of peeps is in my opinion, the single best way to grow your business.  It goes back to the old Faberge® Organics shampoo commercial that many of you reading this are probably too young to remember.  The premise of the commercial is that the consumer loved the product so much, that she told two friends and they told friends and so on and so on until wads of people were using this fabulous shampoo.

This is similar to how networking works. You meet one new person who loves what you do. They tell a friend who tells another friend and so on and so on. It’s magic! Well, sort of.

Why? Because if you don’t get someone to love what you make or do in the first few minutes of meeting them, no one is telling anyone anything. There will be no “so on’s” in your business but rather “so long!”

How do you get someone to take interest in the single most important thing in your life – your business? Here are some rules of thumb that have worked for me. 

1. Please, please, please don’t give someone a dried up, boring, over-rehearsed elevator pitch. We all know that having an elevator pitch is important and it is. Unless it’s a bad one.  A bad elevator pitch will kill you faster than a can of Raid® in a roach hotel!

While you do want to be able to describe your business so your listener understands what you do, no one wants to hear about every single product or service you have nor how many awards you have won (unless they are Oscar’s or Grammy’s). People want to know how you can help them solve their problems. That’s it. What’s In It For Me? WIIFM. Remember this acronym in everything you do for your business and you will never fail.

Every one of your potential clients is asking this – What’s In It For Me if I buy your coaching services or hire you to decorate my office or manage my finances? If you are not able to articulate e how you can solve a future client’s problem in the first few minutes, then head to the buffet table and take advantage of the free food because you’re wasting your time.

Take some time to think about your business and how it helps people. Put yourself in their shoes. Would you buy from you? Write down 3-5 short sentences about what you can do for them that makes their lives easier or less stressful. Try it out at your next event and see what the reaction is.

2. Please, please, please don’t keep trying to convince someone to meet with you when they’ve already said they are not interested. Yes it’s true that sometimes an initial reaction can be one of disinterest until you probe a little further but if someone says they hate to cook and eat out every night, don’t try to persuade them to buy your new cookbook. It ain’t gonna happen.

Can you turn some of these nay-sayers around SOMEtimes? Yes. I’ve seen this happen.  Let’s stick with our cookbook example. You wrote a cookbook because YOU love to cook and wanted to share your recipes with the world. Not everyone loves to cook. In fact, some people (like me) hate it.  What I want is someone to cook FOR me. Is it possible that instead of buying your cookbook, they can buy your meals that you’ve prepared, delivered right to their door? Sure! Fabulous idea.

My point is – don’t get stuck on selling only one thing. The people you are meeting are a hot bed of market research. If they’re not interested in what you’re selling, find out what they are interested in and then go home and figure out a way to deliver it.

3. Please, please, please don’t take everyone’s business cards home and enter them into your newsletter distribution list. This is a BIG no-no! Just because someone gave you their card does not equate to them agreeing to receive daily tips on how to cook vegan. You’re overstepping and worse? You’ve likely pushed them over the line and they will never do business with you.

Then how am I supposed to grow my list and work on the “so on’s and so on’s”? You ask permission, that’s how. You can either do it during the event or by sending them a nice ‘Thank You’ email the following day inviting them to join your list.

BUT…don’t simply ask them to join your list to get your monthly newsletter. YAWN. (What was the acronym I told you to remember earlier in this post? Hey – no scrolling up – I see you peeking!)

WIIFM . Tell them WHY they should sign up for your list. Tell them how your newsletter or tips or e-book is going to solve their problem.  Make it worth their while. People are busy. No one has time to read anything anymore, let alone a newsletter on a product or service for which they are not interested.

I know these few tips seem simple but what I have learned is that the best way to grow your business is through the KISS principle. Keep It Simple Silly. Put any one of these tips into practice and watch your business grow and so on and so on and so on.

Jennifer Covello  is The Purposeful Parent, an award-winning author, blogger, creator of Frittabello baby gifts and mother of two children. With her unique perspective on parenting coupled with her sense of humor and vast experience, Jennifer is able to relate to a variety of women and the daily challenges they face as a mom and business owner. Jennifer has been featured on both radio and TV programs for her insights about her journey from corporate “cubicle dweller” to “mompreneur” providing helpful tips and inspiration to moms and dads alike. Most recently she was on Better Connecticut Weekend Edition where she provided tips on overcoming SuperMom Syndrome. Jennifer is a native of Long Island, New York and had a corporate career in IT and Marketing. She holds a B.S. degree in Management Information Systems from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and an MBA in Marketing Management from Pace University, New York.