If you’ve been in business a little while the chances are you’ve come across the concept of formalised business networking, you may be a die-hard committed networker already, or you may have given it a go and decided it wasn’t for you.
What those who stick at it know is that networking has a number of purposes and the possible positive outcomes are varied. It can be a great way to:
- Meet potential partners who can help you accelerate your business
- Find clients either through direct contact or through referral.
- Do market research and test your ideas
- Find your own suppliers
- To get out of isolation and mix with other business people
- Find advice and support
There are the less tangible benefits of networking that can make it worthwhile no matter what but if ultimately you are looking to increase leads and sales, then if you don’t put some thought into your networking strategy and approach it in the right way to achieve these tangible outcomes, it can result in a big waste of time . And if it isn’t at least paying for itself, a waste of money!
What have you invested into networking in terms of time and money over the last year or so? And have you got a return on that investment into your business?
With that in mind we’ve come up with 7 “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of business networking that we hope you will find useful and will help you get more out of your networking in the future.
- Do take time to build relationships – Most people do business with people they feel they know, like and trust. This process can take time. If you are looking to sell to people or generate referrals out of someone the first time you meet them the chances are you won’t get very far.
Seek out people who you naturally get on with, take time to build rapport and develop the relationship. As the trust develops then look at ways that you can help each other. Once someone like’s you, they’ll be much more motivated to try and help you succeed. However within that context, never be afraid to ask someone if they want to meet to discuss things further should you think there is potential business there and always look for opportunities to give referrals to others!
- Don’t expect it all to happen straight away – networking is about perseverance. The first time you try it, you may not meet anyone in the room you connect with or feel you could do business with. Take time to get to know people a bit and try a few more events as it won’t all happen straight away.
Take your time to find the right type of networking for you and your business. You can either go to a networking group that meets on a regular basis accelerating how fast you can build the relationships simply because of the number of times you meet, or you can go to a more open ad hoc network where it may take more time for it to work for you. Either way if you keep at it and apply the other “Do’s” and “Don’ts” then you should get a return on your investment.
- Do have a plan and strategy – Know the sort of people you are looking to meet before you attend a networking meeting,and set clear intentions on what you’d like to get out of it. This should all be identified as part of your overall Marketing and Sales Strategy and current campaign plan!
Once you know the sort of people you are looking to meet identify the best types of events you could be attending in advance, plan what it is that you are going to talk to them about, what you are looking for and what it is you want to find out about the businesses of the people you’ll meet and more specifically you could think of some of the questions you could ask.
- Do take time to prepare – when networking it is important to make a good impression, as that is what the people you are meeting will experience of your business – you. So make sure you are prepared; what information do you need to take? If you have the chance to present take the time to make it good – impressions count for a lot and you don’t know who your presentation with resonate with and what might come out of that.
- Don’t be pushy – Think about how you respond when someone tries to close a sale or force you in to having a meeting. It’s not a good approach and can actually put people off talking to you again, so someone who might have been a good potential partner or customer will never find that out because you’ve put a barrier between you where they avoid you for fear you are going to try and “sell” them something.
- Do follow up – Many people leave networks they are members of because they believe it isn’t working for them, but when challenged they aren’t approaching it in a way that will generate results, and not following up is usually the number 1 cause of poor results. There’s no point in attending networking events if you don’t then follow up on the leads, meetings, opportunities and referrals promised that you’ve identified. They won’t all come to something but if you don’t follow up none of them will come to anything. Follow up can be something a lot of people procrastinate about in a major way – but just ask yourself the question – what’s the worst that can happen?! The main thing is to follow up without being pushy!
- Don’t have a 1-1 with everyone! – Start out by choosing a few people you think you might have some synergy with for a 1-1 but bear in mind that 1-1 meetings can also be a massive waste of time if you re not careful. By doing 1-1’s with everyone, you’ll exhaust yourself and you’ll have no time to actually run your business. Yet 1-1’s are more than likely an essential part of your sales process so being smart about who you meet, where and when so you are efficient with them is vital, and it’s essential you are clear on the purpose of your meeting, even if that is just to explore possibilities. If 1-1’s aren’t a part of your sales process you need to be clear what the next step in your process is so that you have a chance of driving prospects into your sales funnel from your networking activity.
Hopefully, you’ve found these do’s and don’ts useful and they’ve got you thinking about how you can do your networking more effectively.
Maybe it’s time to re-assess the networking you are doing, where you are doing it and how. Maybe it’s time to look at your marketing and sales strategies in general as your networking is only one piece of the bigger puzzle which is essential you put together in alignment if you want to see the end results you want.
Get in touch if you’d like to find out more about how we can help you with your marketing & sales strategy, campaign planning or sales performance.