No matter how successful your business is right now, don’t overlook the fact that networking is an integral part of keeping that success going.
Many businesses fail to recognise the importance of networking. When you have lots of work, you’re often too busy to network yet during those times when business is slow and the telephone isn’t ringing with enquiries, how do you find new business?
Marketing campaigns and direct mail campaigns can be effective but it’s often who you know and not how good you are at your job that wins new business.
Keeping your business contacts “warm” is an effective way to ensure that, when business slows, you’re able to use your networking skills and contacts to find new opportunities.
Many women feel insecure about networking. In fact, many men feel the same way; it’s just that they often hide it more effectively!
If you’re new to networking consider the following:
Who should I be networking with?
It takes a little time for people to learn to network effectively. There is no such thing as a “born networker”; it’s simply that effective networkers know how to play to peoples’ strengths. If you’re unsure about what’s required, attend an event with an accomplished networker and watch them in action. If you’d like something more formal, then find a local training course to boost your confidence.
Where is the best place for networking?
Put simply, anywhere there are people.
If you specialise in a particular industry sector, go along to events attended by others in that field – whether they’re social events, conferences, seminars or exhibitions.
Check your local press for details. Register with your Chamber of Commerce, industry associations or other networking organisations to receive newsletters and mail shots about their forthcoming events. Stay informed so that you don’t miss that key opportunity.
When is the best time for networking?
If possible, pick a timing when the person attending is at their best to maximise the opportunities. A night owl yawning their way through a breakfast business event doesn’t create a good impression!
Events take place morning, mid-day and evenings. Vary the events you attend to ensure you meet a variety of people, as you never know who might be there or who they will know. It’s about creating links “though” the room not selling in the room.
Personally, I attend a variety of events run at differing times of the day on a regular basis, when business permits. Once a fortnight, I run a business breakfast group and am developing strong links with people as I get to know, like and trust them. Intermittently, I attend other events to ensure I’m increasing my business network who can help me to spread the word about my business as widely as possible.
The fundamental reason we network is to hope someone says something and you think … there’s an opportunity for me to:
- Start building a business relationship and help others with their business (which will help my own business and profile)
- Raise my own and the company’s profile
- Meet decision makers
- Gain information – e.g. about my industry or my competitors
- Look for new potential … opportunities, employees, a supplier, a new job!
- Networking isn’t difficult but a flexible attitude and some useful skills include:
- Accept business-related invitations and be open-minded about the outcome (you may not sell to anyone at the event but they may know someone to whom you can sell your services).
- Dress smartly; make sure your body language is welcoming.
- If you are wearing a name badge, ALWAYS wear it on the right-hand side. You shake hands with your right hand, which draws the eye to that side, which makes the name badge easier to read.
- Always greet people with confidence, smile and offer a polite greeting.
- Be polite, courteous and respectful.
- Work the room – don’t get stuck in discussions with someone who can’t help your business. Excuse yourself politely and move on to a new prospect.
- Ask pertinent questions. Ensure people feel at ease when talking to you, don’t interrogate them!
- Listen carefully. Look for ways in which you can help their business, which makes them more inclined to reciprocate.
- Follow up professionally.
Most of all – try to look relaxed and have fun. You may not walk out of the door with definite appointments or new business, but aim to leave a positive, professional impression. At some time in the future, the time you spent positively networking could lead to that new business for which you’re searching.
About the Author: Anne Huscroft’s career in relocation management and administration training has spanned over 30 years. Her first employer was a world-renowned multi-national company with a global workforce. Anne managed overseas/repatriation moves for numerous employees and trained new managers and administrators in company operational systems. Leaving due to marriage, Anne has continued to facilitate staff moves and train staff within SMEs and the Education sector. Two overseas assignments, living with her family elsewhere in Europe, have given Anne empathy for global living. She has assisted many expat families integrate smoothly into their new local community; drawing on her experiences to co-write “How to be a Global Grandparent”, due for publication early in 2009. The book offers solutions to global families about how to keep their special bonds alive, provides IT instructions and cost-effective communication guidelines. Since repatriation, Anne set up a consultancy specialising in relocation, education and organisation solutions. REO-Solutions is located in Cheshire, UK.