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.

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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.

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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.

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