TC Krueger is the co-founder and president of ClearShield Services, a business that provides a unique solution for vehicle service centers to provide windshield repair to their customers. He is always looking for new ideas, opportunities, ventures and people smarter than he to help him build successful companies.
We spoke with TC about his experiences networking, and his advice for others aspiring to improve their own experience:
I met a similar service provider at the convention/trade show of a national franchise. We talked and noticed that we had a lot of the same clients, just worked with them in a slightly different capacity. From there we began attending trade shows together and splitting booths, which saved on the cost and allowed us to meet one another’s clients and acquaintances. This helped us greatly to land some large clients and we are currently in talks with a potential client that could more than triple our entire business as a result of networking with the leaders of this other company and effectively “co-networking” together. Although this started off as a casual connection, it ended up having a big impact on both of our businesses.
Meet In Person
Face-to-face is a million times more effective than phone/email/social media. Attend events in your realm, do every trade show or convention possible. Introducing yourself via technology is fine, but it won’t get you anywhere close to what a handshake and in-person conversation will do.
It is difficult sometimes to approach or meet someone new. For me, I tend to be more introverted and seemed to feel bad networking because I always felt like I was trying to get something from the other person. Over time I realized that just as much as they might have something to offer me, I may also have something to offer them, and we can have a symbiotic relationship.
Attend Trade Shows
For me, the best place to make connections has been trade shows. That’s where I’ve met most of my clients and made contacts within my industry. Our business targets a small, niche market. For larger industries, I would recommend attending any kind of event where people with similar clients might be. Those events are probably also more local and more common.
Get Contact Information
I have always made sure to get contact information for every important connection that I make and write a note about our conversation. I always send an email or a note letting the person know that it was a pleasure to meet and extend an offer to keep in touch or even talk more about a subject that was discussed, even if it’s just something small.
I try to ask questions about them. What do they do? How did they get into their line of work or position? Get them talking so that they feel comfortable with you. Typically, if you show an interest in them and their background, they will reciprocate and you will have an opportunity to tell your story and present what you offer/need. Having the other person ask for you to talk about yourself is always better than simply presenting yourself and your “pitch.”
Don’t Act Like a Telemarketer
Don’t jump right into business and what you want. It’s like cold calling. I’ve seen many people network as if they are an in-person telemarketer. When a telemarketer calls you out of the blue with an “offering” and they run their pitch as fast as they can so they can make sure you hear the whole thing, do you listen or care? No. Then why would you do it in a networking situation and expect the contact to care one bit about what you have to say?