If the last few posts I’ve written have convinced you of the benefits to working as a subcontractor on government projects and you’ve begun your marketing to contractors. You’re now ready to begin networking with other government contractors in the hopes of being hired as a subcontractor.
A Few Networking Basics
If you haven’t dabbled in the world of networking, here is an overview of what to expect. There are local business events and online groups that you can attend or join to grow your network of contacts. These groups join together government contractors, industry specialists, and business owners. The purpose of attending events in your city is to meet as many contractors as possible and start building relationships.
Note: the purpose is NOT to start pushing for them to hire you as soon as you meet them! Instead, you need to nurture relationships so that down the road, after they have come to trust you, they will consider you as a subcontractor for projects they’re working on.
A few general networking tips:
- Ask lots of questions. People like to talk about themselves.
- Ask for business cards.
- Give your business cards out.
- Truly listen; don’t look over your new contact’s shoulder for someone better to talk to.
- Follow up after the event. Be sure to ask for permission to put them on a list to receive periodic updates about your company to stay in touch.
Crafting Your Pitch
In networking, you hear about creating an “elevator pitch.” An elevator pitch is a few sentences that describe who you are, what you do, and maybe what you’re looking to get out of this event. Before hitting your first event, take some time to reflect on what you want to say, and practice saying it so that it rolls off your tongue naturally.
Keep it short and sweet.
I’m John Doe. I design eco-friendly buildings that minimize the impact on the environment, save companies money on energy bills but that don’t cost an arm and a leg to build. I’m here to meet potential contracting partners. What do you do?
Don’t be afraid to say you’re looking to connect with contractors who need subs! Just don’t make that the push of your agenda.
Key Ingredients for Networking
Attire-wise, you’ll need to dress professionally. Consider the impression that you give with the ensemble you’re wearing. If you’re looking to make a splash, go for the neon tie. Otherwise, middle-of-the-road conservative works best.
Business cards are essential for networking events, so make sure to order yours long before the day of the event. If your business card has space for it, consider adding quick facts on it, such as your company’s special status (if any) schedules or NAICS codes. Keep your basic contact info on the card, including:
- Job Title
- Social media profiles (LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.)
- Website or blog URL
Few people will need your fax number, and it’s a dying breed anyway, so save the valuable real estate for other important details.
Perfecting the Follow Up
After the event, take down notes about everyone you met, and send a follow-up “nice to meet you” email or a handwritten card. (Bonus points if you can figure out which of the two is more likely to impress.) Input the contact information into your contact management platform and make sure to include your notes, both professional and personal (“Scott’s son is competing in a soccer tournament next month. Remember to ask how it went.”) as those personal details can help you better connect with the people you’ve met.
Ask the contacts you really connected with at the event out for coffee or lunch one-on-one. Your time is valuable and so is theirs so limit this to people you really hit it off with or that there is a very real opportunity. This will give you both a better opportunity to get to know one another and ask questions. Even if a contractor isn’t working on a project that could use you, you might still get great advice from him, or you might be able to help him yourself. The purpose is to keep the relationship going. Down the road, let him know you’d be happy to get involved in any projects where your skills would be an asset.
The fourth and final post in this series will address selling your services to government contractors. What are your networking best practices? Share your tips for networking success in the comments section below.