Imagine if Johnny Appleseed tried to do his magic while sitting behind a desk all day.

You cannot succeed in business trying to secure customers by texting or emailing from your office. The best Customer Relation Management software on the market does not replace a personal visit and a handshake to nurture the sales process.

If you want to have a successful small business, you have to put yourself out there. Entrepreneurs must roam the countryside – or wherever your market is located – and plant their messages into face-to-face conversations. Then, you have to nurture the relationship and eventually go out and pick the fruit.

When I launched my communications company J Owen Media in 2009, a good friend and entrepreneur shared some important advice:

“Talk to as many people as you can fit into your day,” said Ted Grossnickle of Johnson Grossnickle and Associates. Ted said advertising could only get you so far. He said making yourself known and available are critical to successful business networking.

Johnson County has lots of opportunities for networking among small businesses. Connecting through the Greenwood and Franklin Chambers of Commerce are great places to start. Several small business alliances also have networking opportunities. (See right)

But how do you handle the networking opportunity once you get there? Here are a few tips:

Make It Personal

Create a list of people or companies you want to work with. If you know them, call and ask for 15 minutes of their time. If you don’t know them, call and ask for five minutes of their time.

Meet them on their terms and at their office. (No lunch or coffee yet). Ask how their organization is doing, and – if you know them – catch up on your families. Make the conversation 80 percent personal, 20 percent business. At the end, tell them what you are doing and how you might be able to help them.

Avoid talking about cost or contracts or formal proposals. Plant this idea – You can help them be successful or you have a product that serves their needs.

Be Efficient

Time is money. If you are going to a networking event, do so wisely. When you attend, work your way strategically through the room – instead of lingering in a corner and talking with a few old friends.

Have your 30-second elevator speech ready. When someone asks what you do, tell them what you do – not your position.

For example, I say: “I help small businesses and non-profits tell their story.”

Also, be selective with your introductions and the time you talk to people at networking events. Your goal isn’t to get as many business cards as possible. Your goal is to get quality leads.

Business organizations are realizing the need for networking efficiency.

The new Franklin Chamber of Commerce, for example, is developing a clear mandate – come to a Chamber networking event and have the opportunity to generate five sales leads.

When scouting potential networking organizations or events, ask how many possible leads you can expect.

Scout for Partnerships

Another great benefit of networking is developing potential business partnerships.

You never know when a connection can lead to someone who can send business your way or vice versa. You might find someone whose company complements your business – and the two of you can work together on securing larger projects.

When meeting a potential partner, ask them how they go about their business. Find out their priorities, and learn how they treat customers. Make certain their personal and professional values match up with yours.

Stay Patient

Apple trees require five to eight years of growth before bearing fruit.

Your networking shouldn’t take that long to bring you business. But don’t get frustrated if you attend one event and nothing comes from it.

Constantly work, evaluate and adapt your networking opportunities.

And keep getting out from behind the desk.

Bright Ideas for Business is an information sharing program of the following community partners:

Johnson County Public Library

Johnson County Development Corporation

Franklin Chamber of Commerce
Greater Greenwood Chamber

Discover Downtown Franklin

City of Franklin

Visit the Bright Ideas for Business section on PageAfterPage.org.