Networking or Not Working
Many businesses participate in networking events as a way of gaining new contacts and leads to potential work. Word of mouth is often the best way of gaining new work and this relies on your circle of contacts passing on your details or recommending you to potential customers. Maintaining contact and broadening your contacts can assist your business in growing and can also assist you in finding contractors or recommendations for ways to resolve your current business challenges.
In order to achieve this you should ensure that your plans for networking are appropriate for the needs of yourself and your business. Are the people you are networking with going to be those that might be able to assist your business? Those you meet may not be those that you want to talk to but their customers may be. All businesses protect their customer database and are not going to pass on details of customers that they value unless they consider that the customer will benefit from meeting you. Building up trust is essential to gain a referral to a customer and often the most important part of networking is to listen to those you meet with a view to helping them and demonstrating that you are interested in a two way conversation and not just selling your services.
So first identify those who have the widest range of contacts or with specific sector contacts that might be of benefit to your business. There are generally people present at most networking events, often organising, who can introduce you to others if asked. Be clear about your business and those sectors that may be able to assist you – a short explanation is a key tool. Also, explaining what you offer through a storey rather than detail will be more likely to be remembered. Most people prefer to talk about themselves – Understanding them will give you an understanding of how they might be able to help you. By talking to them about what interests them and applying this to your business in responding will give you a better chance of being remembered after the meeting.
Ensuring that you have your business cards and that these are well designed to get your message across and be memorable is important. If your card looks identical to many others, when handed over, this will make less impact than a properly designed card that represents your business well. The back of the card provides half the advertising space and yet is often not used. But take care to ensure that your card is going to be willingly received and not pushed on to someone so that you can move on to someone else.
So consider how you might be able to assist their business and don’t sell. Business relationships are built on mutual understanding not a one way pitch. Appreciate that most established businesses have well established networks of contacts. These and networks may well be formed on the golf course, formal networks and associations or school or college contacts. Getting past these requires time and attention to make the business relationship work. And networking can serve two purposes, to find new customers and to find service providers who can assist your business to improve its profitability either by saving on existing spending or by identifying ways to make the business more efficient. Maximising these opportunities will ensure that you are working whilst networking!
Chris Storey, Director