Business Networking Doesn’t Work For Everyone Or Does It?

Have you ever spoken to someone in business who says “Oh yes – I tried networking once and it didn’t work for me.”

Over my years in business and having attending hundreds of networking events, I’ve heard this or a similar phrase many, many times. I’ve also been told that business networking doesn’t work for everyone and for a while I reflected on this point to see if I agree and actually, I don’t.

Now if you put it another way and say “not everyone who does business networking makes it work” then that is another matter. Also, “not all types of business networking events work in the same way for everyone” I can agree with that as well.

Whatever your business or profession, networking at some level can and will have a positive impact on you and your business, especially when you do it well.

Over my last 7 years in business, I have been an active member of a business referral group and I have seen numerous members come and go. Frequently I see people in the same business or profession who achieve very contrasting results from their networking activity. Why is this?

I’ve seen business owners leave declaring that networking is rubbish and a waste of time and then someone else has joined to replace them and they get so much business that they happily declare that the group has been their absolutely best source of business and they wish they had joined years earlier.

The difference isn’t their business or necessarily their professional competence. It is however their attitude. The successful Networkers are the ones who commit to and embrace the qualities and values of the group. They focus on helping others first and trust that they will be helped in return. They build trust and respect and because they regularly attend the meetings and support the group and its members, including at social events, they become well-known and definitely well-liked by their colleagues and associates.

When you start with a great positive attitude and add to that tried, tested and proven skills and techniques of rapport building, etiquette and personal communication among others, you dramatically improve your personal effectiveness.

In terms of not all networking events working in the same way for everyone, it really is important to find groups that you feel comfortable in. Networking is a powerful and highly effective way to generate referral business, wherever you do it.

Networking isn’t a quick fix to generate immediate extra business and sales when you suddenly realise that your orders have stopped coming in. Networking isn’t a hard sell ‘close the deal’ approach to business.

Networking is a slower process for cultivating trust and nurturing contacts and connections. Networking is highly effective at generating strong personal and business relationships that will deliver long-term repeat business on recommendation and referral.

Whatever your business is, having other people tell people they know about you and being happy to refer others to you, is a benefit that will leverage your own time and resources. When you add value for and help the people you meet, many of them will help you in turn.

If however, your focus is on a quick return, ‘a fast buck’, what’s in it for me approach, networking will not deliver what you are looking for.

Tony Altham is Business Networking Coach, Trainer and Professional Speaker who specializes in teaching entrepreneurs and professionals how to build powerful relationships that generate long-term profitable business via referral and recommendation.

Top 5 Benefits Of Business Networking

Networking in business can mean two things.

One is, of course, the quantitative technical aspect of installing an efficient system of Local Area Network (LAN) in your office or a Wide Area Network (WAN) among your various branch offices. A systematic and technologically sound network has a very big role to play in creating streamlined processes, better management of data and user-friendly accessibility for employees in your business.

But in this article, we are going to talk about the top 5 advantages of the equally important qualitative aspect of networking in business – which includes networking with other business owners, customers, dealers and peers.

Especially for small and growing businesses, which do not have a marketing department or lots of money to spend on advertising, networking can be a key for expanding the business. For the CEO of a small business, investing in networking often serves as the biggest gateway to getting leads, referrals, new business and contacts. Let’s take a look at the top 5 advantages of networking in business:

1. You get a feel for the local business environment
Especially in the context of your own small business, it is vitally important to understand how the local market behaves, what are its key demand areas and its most effective price points keeping in mind the demographic and psycho-graphic profile of the area. Networking with other peers in your local business area and associations of local business owners and customers helps you get a clearer picture of the demand and supply graph of your local business area.

2. Keep updated with the current happenings in the local business environment
No business can grow in isolation. Networking with other business owners and associations helps you keep updated on the latest local business news, new regulations, incentives or tax reliefs offered by the local government to small businesses and the changing customer demands.

Besides, it is important to have updated knowledge of current business trends to be able to spot emerging business opportunities. You can accordingly fine tune your business plans and marketing strategies to make best use of the developments.

3. Gain qualified leads and referrals
It is said that, on average, 70% of all new business is gained through word of mouth and positive recommendation. Irrespective of how much money you invest in advertising or marketing, the best way to increase your business is by getting solid referrals or sales leads that come from known contacts.

Once you build a network of good, reliable contacts, you will find your contacts passing on business leads to you, which you will be able to close more quickly than those coming from advertising. People like to refer those whom they know, like and trust.

4. Get useful business tips and advice
A good network of contacts is like an investment in executive coaching. You will find that the best business advice and tips come to you from your contacts. People with whom you have built positive relationships would gladly pass on effective and honest advice to you.

Especially your peers or business owners who are in non-competing businesses are great sources of useful tips. One proven way of building a great network of contacts is to join a CEO club or CEO association where you can interact with experienced peers and business owners on the problems you are facing or the strategies you would like to apply.

Networking with peers in a CEO group or CEO club who will give you sound and honest advice is one of the best ways of receiving helpful business insights. Your contacts and peers may have experienced similar problems to yourself and can point you in the right direction.

Also, make it a regular exercise to attend relevant business seminars and conferences where you can establish a number of potential new contacts.

5. Unlock new business opportunities
Building a growing network of business associates, business contacts and peers is like opening yourself to a larger world of new ideas. You may be running a small business but that does not mean you should limit your ideas, vision and plans for your business within narrow confines.

As you meet with new business contacts, you will be amazed to find yourself being exposed to new business ideas, new market possibilities and new potential for expansion which you otherwise may not have thought of.

Business networking helps you in many other ways. It develops your communication skills and confidence in meeting with new people. Besides it also gives you unique opportunities of being of help to others, just as others have been to you. It may hold the key to your business’s expansion and success.

How To Get The Most Out Of Business Networking By Establishing Win-Win Relationships

What is networking?

Networking for business is a marketing strategy that is about making friends and forming strong relationships that will help you grow your business. It is said that it is not what you know in business, but who you know.

However, most people have no idea how to network successfully. They think that they are there just to hand out business cards, make a quick sale, and then move on to the next networking club or event to repeat the process.

Why do we network?

Business to business networking is about much more than that. It is about forming strong lifetime relationships and knowing people whom you can strategically use or place either in an advisory capacity, or who can help you find a product or put you in touch with someone who can help you with a product, service or project. So whenever you need help, advice, a product or service, you can call on your network and someone will be able to help you, or know someone else who will. This means that you are no longer alone in your small business, but have immediate access to someone in your network thanks to the relationships you have formed.

Networking is therefore a vital part of your business and a strategy that maximises your exposure and puts you on a platform similar to big business.

So, how do we network effectively?

Use a CRM (Customer Relationship Management System) and make categories for your contacts.

1. Your Database: Everyone that you have ever had contact with.

2. Your Network: People you know from college/university, old colleagues, professionals you know, other business contacts, and people you have met at networking events.

3. Your Inner Circle: About 20 – 50 people who know you well and whom you trust. These people can give you honest feedback and constructive critique when necessary without fear of offending you.

4. Your Board of Advisors: These are 5-7 individuals who are your closest advisors.

5. Family and Friends: The people who know you intimately.

There are 8 Steps to Effective Networking

1. Get your mind ready

If you approach networking with the right frame of mind; that you need to make friends and get to know them so you can be of value to each other. And that you go into networking events with the attitude of “what I can do to help you” it will pave the way for networking success.

2. Develop a Great 60 second “elevator speech”

This needs to grab the attention of the person you are talking to, and be memorable so they remember you. An example: Don’t say “I sell ladies underwear” but say: “I help women look slimmer and taller.” Every woman wants that.

3. Identify the market you want to reach

It is no good saying “everybody” because not everyone will be interested in your product or service. For example don’t say: “I am looking to speak to everyone who wants to retire wealthy” but say “I am looking for men in their forties who want to be wealthy and live the good life in the next ten years.”

4. Decide where to Network

As you can’t be everywhere, there will be times and places that will work better for you. Find networking groups that correspond with that.

5. Develop your strategy

If you are prepared beforehand there is nothing to fear. Write out and practice what you are going to say, and plan where and when to network, and what you want to accomplish. Also be clear on what you need so that your network can help you with that.

6. Remember to Ask Questions

People love talking about themselves. Ask the right questions, and get them to talk about themselves and their business. If you listen well, there may be an opportunity for you which you will miss if you are intent on speaking about yourself and your business instead.

7. Don’t Sell your product or service

Be clear on why you are there: You are not there to sell but to make friends and build strong relationships. If you insist on selling, you will just annoy others and they will avoid you.

8. Follow-up

This is the most overlooked part of networking. You need to follow up with the people you meet and see them one on one. Keep the business cards in a business card holder and add them to your database. Then phone them within 48 hours to make an appointment.

If you have seen them before, keep in touch with a card, a note an email or a phone call. Make sure they don’t forget you.

If you follow all these steps you will have greater success at networking. You will form great relationships with people who will purchase your product or service when they have need for it. Networking is a long term goal, not a short term fix. And above all, be relaxed, have fun and enjoy yourself.

Copyright (c) 2011 Attraction Marketing

What Are Modern Business Networking Groups Anyway?

Maybe you’ve just started up in business and you’ve heard about modern networking groups and how important they will be to your new business. Maybe you need to expand your business and venture into new areas and feel that networking groups may help. So what is this modern networking all about and how does it differ from the old-fashioned networking where you simply kept in regular touch with your friends, peers and business colleagues?

Here is some good news. There is no fundamental difference. Networking, in both the personal and the business sense, will always be about building solid, quality relationships over time.

Modern business networking groups are basically groups of business people who meet regularly for networking purposes and business growth.

The bad news is that a great many modern business networking groups are actually profit generating businesses in their own right. Attendance of the various groups can be quite expensive for new or expanding businesses. Getting the fundamentals of networking right can, however, more than recoup the outlay in terms of business generated and profits made. As with all aspects of running a business, the onus is on you to measure this Return on Investment (ROI) and act appropriately to ensure that you are where you want to be at all times.

As this article is aimed at business networking, I will talk about using the “Know, Like and Trust” approach and why it is an excellent way to go. It is a proven and repeatable process that will stand you in good stead. As with so much in life, the more time and effort you put into the process, the better the results you will obtain.

Remember that business networking should never be about selling – you should be engaged in quality relationship building. You may of course sell early on if conditions prove ideal but that is not your primary aim. Pushy salespeople will be easily get to the Know stage but rarely any further.

At the Know stage of the process you are aiming to build a network of people who know about you and know about your business. You should commit to being consistent in attending events and make a real effort to keep in regular contact with your developing network group. The members of your network group will then see you much more and therefore get to know you much more. You will be on their collective radar. At this stage you will get to know them as well. You may well know many, if not all, of the network group within quite a short time. You will begin, hopefully, to move into the Like sector.

Reaching the Like stage is not actually about being liked in the sense of “I like Andy, he’s a really great guy”, although being liked in this way is obviously a real bonus. Rather, you will be liked as in accepted as a serious and consistent business person with a good business offering. The members of the networking group who like you would readily consider asking for your advice or input and might even consider referring you if the opportunity arose.

Bear in mind here that you are aiming for quality business relationships. You will not be liked by all members of the group and, in turn, you will not like all of the group members. It is unrealistic to think otherwise. The numbers in your network circle at each stage of know, like and trust process should reduce. It is simply a factor of the time available to spend on maintaining each relationship and the depth of the various relationships. You have to go for quality over quantity if all parties in the deeper relationships are to benefit.

The real business benefits start at the Trust stage of the process. Here, people will genuinely want to work with you or have you do work for them and they will happily recommend you to others if asked. They may even become advocates for you; actively and enthusiastically looking for opportunities for you, as they work with their own clients and customers. This group should be your networking core. You will form close bonds and you will likely become good friends with them. You will likely be acting as their advocates as well. You will have to earn this trust and maintain it well. Remember, what goes around comes around in the world of business and business networking.

I enable individuals and organisations to develop far more effective, persuasive and influential face to face marketing, sales, presentation and speaking skills. I also write and speak about face to face marketing and motivation. I am the author of “Business Networking for the Bewildered.”

Business Networking – Spiderman’s Not The Only One Building Webs

Business Networking is crucial to the success of your business. Building a foundational web of contacts, support and resources can be the difference between success and moderate success, or success and failure.

If you are new to online business, Internet marketing, or the business of doing business, you may not be as familiar as you should be with business networking. Let’s discuss this very important aspect of doing business, especially as it relates to business online.

The term business networking refers to the practice of people spreading knowledge of their business, products, and services to others in a manner that leaves a good impression, lets people recall you and your business, and encourages the formation of strategic alliances. It is a process of meeting and familiarizing yourself with others, and building relationships that are important to the success and profitability of your business.

Most Internet marketers and entrepreneurs quickly come to realize that in order to grow their businesses, they needed to engage in business networking for all of the same reasons offline businesses do – sharing services, forming partnerships to help promote one another, building sources of support, and expanding their reach and resources. This is really the crux of business networking, to form alliances which translate to mutually beneficial relationships.

Even though some entrepreneurs have years of business and professional experience offline, for whatever reason, they often ignore the practice of networking when becoming engaged in online business. This may be due to their unfamiliarity or inexperience with the Internet, where they may not immediately grasp its fundamental principle. After all, the Internet is networking; the ultimate means of sharing of information.

Business Networking is an activity. Its purpose is to find and build upon connections and relationships that will benefit you and your business. Period. It requires the active participation of the parties involved, and it includes connecting with other people who may be your peers, potential mentors, individuals who have similar business interests, or people who have other things in common with you.

You will likely discover various benefits of networking. These may include new sources of support, added business knowledge, and increased financial resources, however, always be clear in your understanding that the end goal of your networking is to find what benefits you and helps you to succeed.

There are numerous business networks in existence, both online and offline, where members may share special privileges and benefits. For example, a network may encourage members to share or exchange services among one another within the network for reduced fees, in comparison to what is available to outsiders.

Some networks are more formal than others, sometimes having administrators who coordinate activities and events within the organization, enforce governing bylaws of the membership, or collect membership fees annually. Other networks may not actually conduct business within themselves, but serve to gather people of like interests and bring them together. Meet-up.com is one such business network, and allows its online members who share the same interests and location to actually meet face to face.

Now that we know what networking is and some of its benefits, let’s take a look at networking online, beginning with a quick glance at social networking.

Social Networking – The last two years have seen a substantial rise of social network activity and the growth of related sites such as YouTube, Facebook and MySpace among others.

Since its purchase by Google, YouTube, has continued to become an immensely popular success story. The site allows amateurs, with little knowledge of the web and no software to download to facilitate participation, and literally anyone with a camcorder or camera/video phone to upload personal videos online and make an impression.

YouTube started as a place for friends and families to share videos, but with time, businesses and entrepreneurs began to see the importance of using YouTube to facilitate marketing and business networking. At the close of whatever type of video, publishers simply embed links or other contact information for their businesses or websites. With the immense volume of traffic to YouTube, this has developed into an extremely effective tactic. Social network sites exemplify the concept of viral marketing at its best.

Let’s look at another example. Facebook is another hugely popular site where friends can share interests, information, sell goods and services to each other, upload photos and videos and even join existing networks. Businesses which join Facebook, enter a world of virtually limitless opportunities and potential leads. As a result of their activities, members can experience a phenomenal surge in traffic to their websites or businesses.

The most important thing to remember about the advantages of online networking is that you can position yourself and your business to benefit from worldwide contacts and relationships, the potential of which is immensely greater than that to which you may otherwise be exposed. And the results of those connections can develop exponentially within short periods of time.

One last thing. In dealing with online networking (where you may rarely have the opportunity of meeting your partners face-to-face), it is especially important to focus on three fundamentals of good business: professionalism, courtesy and great customer service.

Excellent customer service skills can mean the difference in whether or not your business is recommended or selected for a contract or project. It also leaves a lasting impression on the people with whom you come into contact, helping them to remember you. With numerous online sites and portals, many businesses are engaged in competition with one another, and what may very well be a distinguishing factor is customer service and courtesy.

A few tips for business networking:

1. Create A Website-If your main business is offline, create an online presence with a website featuring an easy means of contacting you. Most offline businesses have now realized the advantages of having an online presence. A very large proportion of business is now conducted online and people usually go online to research a company before they conduct any business with it. These days, without a business website, it is impossible to fully tap into the benefits of business networking.

2. Business Cards-It may seem an archaic concept, but business networking, even for online businesses, should not be confined to the Internet. In order to succeed in networking, a business representative should have business cards as part of their marketing plan, which contain the basic elements of the business’s contact information.

3. Be Skilled In Customer Service-As stated earlier, customer service can make or break a company. With numerous businesses competitors, a crucial aspect is customer service.

4. Join Social Networks Online-We cited Facebook, YouTube, and My Space as excellent sites to join in order to generate exposure to your business, and there are of course many others including common interest groups and forums.

Business networking is of utmost necessity if you are to grow your business in this immensely competitive environment. In many ways, the Internet has leveled the playing field so that small business organizations can effectively compete among each other, and against larger entities. Use this to your advantage. Create your own immense business webs. Spiderman has nothing on you.