There are some who dismiss the idea of networking as a pointless jolly.
And others who find the whole experience so excruciatingly awkward that they will find any way possible to avoid it. If you fall into either of these camps, then read on and see if we can inspire you to be a better networker.
Whether you engage with people online through social media or meet people informally in the pub to chat about business. If you go to conferences, shows and exhibitions, or whether you are part of some more formal networking group. All of us are networking all the time.
And whichever way you look at it, if you are selling to people either directly or indirectly, you need to broaden and establish and then maintain your network. And that takes some effort on your part.
The internet is awash with advice about networking on social media, and that’s really important. In this blog, however, we’re going to focus face to face networking and more specifically, the formal networking groups you can find locally.
Every weekday morning or every weekday lunchtime, somewhere probably quite near to you, people will be getting together, to get to know each other and to network with the overall aim of generating business (although there are plenty of other benefits too).
Networking is time consuming and some make the mistake of trying to attend every group and event going. It’s the networking equivalent of sleeping around. It may be fun for a while, but ultimately, it’s unfulfilling and unrewarding. It’s better to choose carefully and commit fully.
“Do less better”
There is a plethora of networking groups. Women’s ones, ones for specific industries, rural ones, new businesses, older folks, young folks, You name it and I bet it’s out there somewhere.
The important message is that it’s not an immediate process. People who give it a go and then leave after 3 or 4 meetings haven’t really given it enough of a chance.
Broadly speaking, unlocking the potential of your networking efforts is a 3-stage process:
- Know – people need to get to know you and what you do
- Like – time to build rapport and become part of the networking community
- Trust – once people know you and like you, they will trust you and be happy to recommend and refer you to other people in their networks.
So which networking group is right for you?
It’s fair to say that each networking group has its own character which will largely be a reflection on the members of the group. They will also have different expectations of members and varying levels of commitment to meetings.
At Good2Great we advise all our clients that they should at least explore face to face networking. And by that we mean attend a meeting yourself rather than ask someone’s view. That way you can evaluate whether it’s right for you and your business or not.
Asking someone else is a bit like asking a friend if you should marry someone you’ve never met! How do they know what suits you and what you’ll be comfortable with?
We attend a few different networking groups. They all with a slightly different flavour and emphasis. We are such strong advocates of networking that we always happy to invite you along to a group or point you in the direction of a group local to you which we believe would suit you and your business.
Why you can’t afford miss out – and how to go about it…
So, assuming we’re agreed that the idea that networking in some shape of form pretty much underpins most business relationships, let’s look at some tips to help you get more from your efforts.
It’s hard for us not to come across as quite evangelical because we believe in networking so strongly. So, with no apologies, we’d like to share with you some of the additional benefits of joining a networking group and give you 9 good reasons why you should network – its more far reaching than you may think….
…and if we can convince you….we give you some pointers about how to make it work for you….
1. Generation of QUALITY referrals leads to increased business
This is probably the most obvious benefit and the reason most business owners decide to participate in networking activities and join networking groups.
The great news is that the referrals that you get through networking are normally high quality and most of the time are even pre-qualified for you. You can then follow up on these referrals/leads and turn them into clients. So you are getting much higher quality leads from networking than other forms of marketing. Less time wasted.
With a motivated group of business owners comes an abundance of opportunities. Opportunities like joint ventures, client leads, partnerships, speaking at events and or writing opportunities, business or asset sales… the list goes on, and the opportunities within networking are really endless.
A word of warning: Whilst it’s good to be open minded, do make sure the opportunities that you get involved in align with your business goals/vision, otherwise you might find that you are spinning your wheels chasing your tail for no real gain.
“It’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know”. This is so true in business. Networking provides you with a great source of relevant connections, and really opens the door to talk to highly influential people that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to easily talk to or find.
It’s not just about who you are networking with directly either – that person will already have a network you can tap into as well. So ask the right questions and keep an open mind, and remember it’s a two way street – never downplay or underestimate your own connections and networks either!
Having like-minded business owners to talk to also gives you the opportunity to tap into advice and expertise from them on all sorts of things related to your business (or even your personal life).
5. Raising your profile
Being visible and getting noticed is a big benefit of networking. We’re not talking about being loud and obnoxious; you get noticed by regularly attending business and social events, being friendly and positive and by building your reputation as a knowledgeable, reliable and supportive person. If your profile is high you’re more likely to get more leads and referrals as you will be the one that pops into their head when they need what you offer.
6. Positive Influence
The people that you hang around with and talk to do influence who you are and what you do. So it’s important to surround yourself with positive, uplifting people that help you to grow and thrive as a business owner.
Networking is great for this, as business owners that are using networking are usually people that are really going for it, positive and uplifting. I go off every Wednesday to my BNI networking group and inevitably come back into the business re-energised. It’s a real ‘business tonic’.
7. Increased confidence
Not many of us feel that confident about introducing ourselves to a group of strangers or worst still, speaking publicly.
By regularly networking, and pushing yourself to talk to people you don’t know, you will increase your confidence. This is really important as a business owner, because your business growth is very dependent on having the ability to talk to people and make connections.
8. Satisfaction from helping others
We work on the maxim that ‘Givers Gain’ and networking really is all about helping other people. Networking groups are full of business owners that have problems or issues within their business that need solving, and within the group of networkers these can often be solved. It’s a great feeling and a great ethos for your business.
We all know that running a business can be a lonely experience. Often your friends and family don’t really understand what your business involves, nor some of the stresses and strains it puts you under.
Almost without fail, in a network group you are with like-minded business owners with whom you meet and help regularly, so naturally strong friendships tend to form.
Go on – give it a go…
So are you convinced? Are you going to give it a go? Perhaps you do already attend a networking group and it isn’t delivering all the rosy results we’ve talked about?
Stick with it and have a look at some of these tips from Thomas Camarda’s blog ‘Becoming The Ultimate Networker’. His strapline for the blog is:
“The richest people in the world look for and build networks. Everyone else looks for work”
How to maximise the benefits of networking….
1. Be selective
Look at all the events in your selected business area and do your homework. Ask others in your network what events they go to. Choose what events you will attend wisely and attend them regularly. You cannot build relationships based on a one shot mentality.
2. Look, listen and learn
Be very cognoscente of your surroundings and watch how other professionals handle themselves at each event. Listen carefully as other networkers introduce themselves to you and how they explain what they do and what they are looking to accomplish while they are there.
The best and most polished professionals accept the fact that they will never stop learning. Learn from those who are where you want to be in your profession and always be in learning mode.
3. Master your message
A business networking event is a great place to become one with your message and become unconsciously conscience of what you say and do.
You have 30 or 60 seconds to convey who you are, what you do, what makes you different from others and why someone would want to work with you.
That message needs to be the same to all. The more you listen and learn from others and the more you repeat your message, the more refined it becomes and the more polished you become.
4. Position yourself as “The Expert” in your given field
People don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Caring about your industry will show through by your level of knowledge of your industry and its trends. If you were to refer someone to a professional, you would want to know that they will be in good hands, so would others when they refer to you.
5. Increased visibility
As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” If you are going to look to establish long lasting business relationships, you first need to establish yourself as a networking professional that others would absolutely want to have in their network, showing up is 80% of the success you will have as a professional business networker. When others see you appear at different business networking events, their acceptance for you grows stronger and you will attract top networkers to you.
6. New Business Relationships = New Business
Strategic alliances, joint ventures, quality recruiting, and referrals are but only a few of what comes from a new business relationship and new business relationships start very nicely at business networking events. Attending the event itself is very important but only the first step. The fortune is in the follow up. Everything depends on everything you do with your newfound business relationship after the event. This will turn your new relationship into new business.
7. Look to build on the tools of your trade
Networking events are not only a great way to build upon your business by getting new business, it’s also a great way to find professionals that will help you make your business run smoother.
Networking events attract sales professionals, lawyers, accountants, marketing professionals, website developers, promoters and many others that can help you along in making things run smoother in your day to day business. Watch for those people and ask how they can help you.
8. Building your professional team
In today’s business world it is crucial to have the right people on your team. Networking events also attract people that are looking for new opportunities. In today’s ever-changing job market, many professionals have been displaced through downsizing and are looking for a position that will take full advantage of their talents. Here you may, very well, find people that can take your business to the next level.
9. High touch meets high tech
Going out and meeting people face to face and looking them in the eye while shaking their hand triggers a bunch of emotions that compels others to react to you, that is exactly what networking events do. The next step is where high tech comes in. Once you have triggered those emotions connect with each of those professionals in social media on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets. This will give them a chance to keep you in their sights and on the front line of their day to day communication outlets while getting to know you better.
10. Lie, Cheat and Steal
Lie in bed at night thinking where you want to be in terms of success in your business profession and what you will do to attain that success.
Cheat away some precious time from your schedule to attend business networking events every week.
Steal the best introduction lines and questions from the best professional networkers you meet and tweak them to make them your own.
And finally, relax and have fun. Good Luck!
Has this article got you thinking about your business and how you want to grab the reins and drive it forward but you struggle to find the time or feel that you lack the skills or knowledge to do so?
Are you looking at your screen wondering how or if Good2Great could possibly help you to build a better future for you and your company?
If so, why not check out free ways to learn more either at a seminar or in a free one-to-one business health check.
OR – perhaps you’re still at the start of your business journey – check out the Business Start Up Bootcamps