Business networking has two main objectives. The first is to strengthen relationships with your existing contacts, and the second is to meet new contacts. After all anyone in business knows that people do business with people, not with companies. This is why networking is so important.
In fact networking can help with almost every aspect of your business. This includes everything from improving cash flow to business planning to improving sales. It is something that should be done consistently and frequently. And although it takes up a valuable resource – your time – you will benefit in the long run.
Some people are natural networkers. They have a long list of contacts that they can call or email whenever the need arises, and they can move around a room effortlessly engaging in conversations with groups and individuals alike.
Two things should be remembered when thinking about these sorts of people though. Firstly, nothing is actually effortless. While some people are naturally better at meeting and engaging with new people, all networking requires planning and thought. Secondly, natural networkers are in the minority.
Most of us have to work on our networking skills. You might be excellent online and on social media, but in a room full of people you might struggle. Or you might be good building up relationships face-to-face, but find it hard to get your head around the opportunities that exist digitally.
The main things to remember are to constantly seek out new networking opportunities, and always seek to improve your network skills.
And rejection is okay.
One of the reasons people don’t like the idea of networking is a fear of rejection. This comes back to the old cliché: “trying and failing is better than not trying at all”. Not everyone will reject you, so trying gives you the opportunity for success. Also you can learn from your rejections so that you improve your networking skills.
Networking is about meeting as many people as possible. Here are the places where you can do that:
- Local events, such as those organised by local chambers of commerce
- Industry events
- Trade shows and exhibitions
- Twitter and Facebook
Outside of these places you can ask your existing contacts for introductions to specific individuals. You should also always work on building your reputation and the reputation of your business. You can do this by supporting charities, sports teams, and local organisations; writing blogs and engaging on social media; running workshops or networking events; and much more.
When you are meeting someone for the first time, or have the opportunity to meet new contacts, these five tips should help:
- Be Helpful – forget about giving a sales pitch. Of course you should be passionate about your industry, brand, and products, but networking is not about selling. In fact you should do the opposite by offering help in some way. Whenever possible always give before you ask.
- Think Long-Term – for networking to be successful you don’t have to establish a business relationship with a contact straight away. If you think long-term, and work on nurturing the relationship, it will be more beneficial in the long-term.
- Don’t Get Hung Up On Position – just networking with decision makers or your business peers means you risk losing opportunities. Ambitious and intelligent people that you meet today are the CEOs and decision makers of tomorrow. Focus on people, not position.
- Listen – you are passionate about what you do, but so is the person you are talking to. It is almost always better to listen more than you speak.
- Follow Up With Promises – always follow up when you meet a new contact, and deliver on any promises that you have made.
For more advice or help with your business please contact one of our experts at Gilroy Gannon.