How To Make Business Networking A Success For You

Business networking is an effective low-cost marketing method for developing sales opportunities and contacts, based on referrals and introductions – either face-to-face at meetings and gatherings, or by other contact methods such as phone, email, and increasingly social and business networking websites.

A business network of contacts is both a route to market for you, and a marketing method. Business networking offers a way to reach decision-makers which might otherwise be very difficult to engage with using conventional advertising methods. You also have the chance to add in recommendations and personal introductions which are the lifeblood of business development.

Let’s be very clear – a good network is created, and networking succeeds, by the application of hard work.

Quick Tips

Below are ten basic principles for building up your network –  some will require more work than others and some will generate contacts and business quicker than others – it all depends on you and your personal style – there is definitely no “one size fits all” solution here – it’s up to you!

  1. Describe Yourself – the Elevator Speech

This is commonly called an ‘elevator speech’ or ‘elevator pitch’ – as if you were to meet a potentially important contact for the first time in an elevator at a conference and he/she asks you: “What do you do?” this needs to take no more than 25 to 30 seconds – the time between travelling between floors – to explain, and to make such an impressive impact that the person asks for your contact details.

If you talk (or write) too much, the listener (or reader) will become bored, or think you are rude or too self-centred.

You must be concise and measured – by putting key points across quickly but effectively you pass on an impression that will last. This should include;

Your name, business and where you are based.

Your personal area of knowledge or expertise/specialism; try to make yourself stand out from the competition!

Less is more – lots of powerful points in very few words make a much bigger impact than a lengthy statement. Beware the long, rambling monologue; this screams lack of preparation and experience. Ugh!

If you can try to end the interaction with a question as this will make sure that the conversation does not fade way in that awful silence when everybody wants to get away. Fast!

  1. Be Different and Ambitious

There is no easy way to put this – you HAVE to stand out from the crowd. If there is no real, decisive and special difference between you and other providers, then people have no reason whatsoever to choose to work with you. It’s a lonely experience being no better than the rest!

If there is no difference – devise and develop one.

Your difference must be something that many people will find appealing if not so compulsive that they will want to talk to you. Think carefully and come up with three killer-phrases that show what your market advantage is. If you have no market advantages – find some!

This difference needs to shine out in your elevator speech, and be echoed in your subsequent discussions whenever initial interest develops towards supplying something, or putting a collaborative project together.

If you aim high, are ambitious and want change and development you are an attractive person to network with. Attitudes like this make things happen.

  1. Help others – give before you receive

Always prioritise helping and giving to others ahead of taking and receiving for yourself.

You must give in order to receive. Be helpful to others and you will be helped in return and always remember good deeds pay dividends.

Networks of people are highly complex – often it is not possible to see exactly how and why they are working for you, so you must trust that goodness is rewarded, even if the process is hidden and the effect takes a while.

Use the principle of ‘what goes around comes around’.

At a simpler level, always try to ask helpful questions. These typically begin with ‘what’ and ‘how’, and address an area of interest to the other person, not you.

Open questions (who, what, how, when, etc – also “Tell me about…”) give the other person opportunity to speak and express their views and feelings:

  1. Keep your Integrity – build trust and reputation

Always keep your integrity. Whilst it might be tempting, sometimes seriously tempting, to do something to the detriment of others, making such a mistake can damage personal integrity. Similarly failing to apologise for wrong-doing often damages a person’s integrity and reputation far more than the original misjudgement itself.

People of low integrity sooner or later find that the only friends they have left are other people of low integrity.

Significantly, integrity is vital for trust to develop. Trust is simply not possible without integrity and building trust is essential for growing a strong business network.

Reliability and dependability are highly valued qualities in relationships, especially relationships involving referrals and recommendations, because someone’s reputation is at stake.

  1. Seek out relevant groups and connections

Identify and target groups and connections which are relevant to your aims and capabilities. How you decide upon which groups are relevant to you will depend upon your circumstances but be prepared to shuffle around your options as the market changes and as your direction of travel develops.

The more relevant your targeting of groups and contacts, then more useful your meetings and referrals will be. Other professional people can be important networking contacts. Direct your targeting beyond obvious business people and obvious networking groups, but be mindful of the nature of the group, and conduct yourself appropriately.

If you find that your networking is producing very low opportunities for follow-up and referral, try to improve your targeting. Find different groups and methods, in other words. A true business network is a connected system of people within which referrals and opportunities can be passed through several connections, or circulated to all those connected. Networking thus can extend far beyond simply having lots of random one-to-one meetings.

  1. Plan, plan and plan again your networking

All projects need managing. Business networking is a project, and so it needs managing. You can use various tools to manage your networking.

Some people plan with shapes and connections on a big sheet of paper. Others prefer a spread sheet. Use whatever you find comfortable. You must be able to plan and monitor your networking activities as an activity which has no clear planned outcomes is liable to be pulled in all sorts of unwanted directions.

Make sure that you have some targets and measurables, and monitor results.

A sensible start might be to pick one business networking website, and one face-to-face business networking group or event, and see how you do before increasing the activity.

  1. Make sure that you honour your commitments and promises

There are two main reasons for the importance of following up because networking only produces good results when it is followed up and following up with contacts builds trust, reputation, and relationships.

If you find that you are not wanting to follow-up meetings and referrals because of lack of relevance then you need to re-assess your group targeting strategy. You might be chasing the wrong groups and connections, and could need to redefine these issues.

  1. Be a positive influence

Be positive. Use positive language. Smile. See the good in people. If you are widely seen as a really positive person other people will be attracted to you. It is always best to keep any criticisms of others to yourself and be passionate and enthusiastic, but not emotional or subjective.

  1. Make sure that you keep on track

Business networking is personal marketing. All forms of marketing benefit from strongly focused activity to create awareness and build relationships to the point when a sale can be made.

A given amount of effort will produce much greater results when applied consistently in a strongly focused way, than the same amount of effort spread over several wider activities, especially if spread over time too.

This especially applies to business networking websites, where occasional light involvement has little impact, but focused continuous efforts can achieve a visible profile and build very many connections.

Be continuously open to unplanned networking opportunities, which can arise at any time. Keeping your eyes and ears open at all times will give you additional opportunities alongside your explicit strategy for world domination!

  1. Keep it all in perspective!

A healthy balance in all aspects of life delivers a feeling of well-being, which is helpful for networking as you will be more relaxed, be able to engage with new people more easily and you will be an attractive proposition to network with.

Having good life balance contributes directly to the level of faith people have in you.

Put the above 10 points to good use and grow your business!

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