Article by Rebecca Mason 23.09.14
Networking is not just about gaining more business contracts; it’s about sharing knowledge, building relationships, giving and receiving recommendations and giving support to other businesses. Remember, effective business networking is about linking together businessesthrough trust and relationship building so they all become walking, talking advertisements for one another.
So, how do you get it right? Here are my 7 tips:
1. Know what your goals are in participating in networking groups. This ensures you will pick the networking groups which will help you get what you are looking for, may it be new customers, or, a new supplier. Remember, some meetings are based more on learning, making contacts, and/or volunteering rather than on strictly making business connections.
2. Visit different networking groups and then become a regular of the ones which suit. Not all networking groups are the same, they vary on formality, cost, types of businesses attending etc. By trying different networking groups, you can join the ones which suit you and your business, allowing your business to grow in the right direction. Remember, if you have to become a member of a networking group, many will allow you to visit before joining.
3. Be the solution. Before attending a networking meeting, make sure you are clear about what you do and why, for whom, and what makes you different from other businesses. Make sure you can articulate this easily in a “60 seconds/elevator pitch”, or, briefly in an informal setting. Ensure you are telling businesses the problems you can solve for them.
4. Be authentic and build relationships, rather than sell, sell, sell. Through sharing knowledge, building trust and relationshipswith other businesses you will become known as the person to contact for the service(s) you have on offer.
5. Ask open-ended questions in networking conversations. This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them.
6. Have your business cards/flyers to hand. Also, remember to pick up other businesses cards/flyer as well, so you can follow up on any potential leads.
7. Follow up. Always send a personalised email, or, make a phone call within 24-48 hours of attending a networking meeting with a potential customer/supplier. It provides an opportunity to maintain contact with the business and to arrange a meeting to discuss how you can do business together in the future. Furthermore, follow those businesses you meet at a networking group on the appropriate social media platform
Remember, networking is a slow process; it takes time to build trust with other businesses. For further advice on networking, or, how to combine this with social media, please feel free to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org; 07531051264.
Written by Rebecca Mason, Owner of RM Troubleshooter.