Networking – Strength or Weakness? Opportunity or Threat?
Love them or loathe them, Networking events are now a major part of business marketing strategy. A great networker will become the face of his or her business and establish valuable business relationships, wherever & whenever the opportunity arises. A poor networker could do untold damage and jeopardise future business opportunities.
Networking or Profiling, as some call it, should not be limited to specific events nor limited to business hours. You are just as likely to meet a future customer in the pub or supermarket as you are at a commercial event, but for the purposes of this blog I will concentrate on planned networking.
So is it an evening of small talk, handing out business cards and trying to get sales from a group of strangers? Or is it an opportunity to create and develop mutually valuable relationships for your business? Hopefully you will agree it must be the latter!!
How often have you been at an event, approached by a complete stranger who greets you with a steely stare and a wrestling grip handshake, tells you his or her name and that they are the Senior Creator for Blah de Blah Associates and if you ever need their services (whatever they may be!) just get in touch. Towards the end of their “elevator pitch” they are already looking over your shoulder for the next victim, and thrust their business card into your hand – occasionally going through the formality of asking for one of yours – before moving on. So what are my top 3 no no’s?
- Don’t try to sell – Too many businesses network when sales are low.
- Don’t measure success by the number of Business Cards you can hand out.
- Don’t go with a colleague – You will inevitably spend most of the evening talking to one another.
So, what have I learnt over the years? More importantly, who have I given business to as a result of their Networking abilities, and why? My top 3 do’s are:
- Do give of yourself – Engage. Remember you are seeking a relationship. Be human. Find out about the person, how was your journey? Have you booked a holiday yet? People prefer to do business with people they like.
- Do paint a picture – At some point during the conversation you are likely to be asked “what do you do?”. Rather than give a non descript job title why not say “You know when you/your business needs (could be a product or service) . . . . I/we do that. Try to be clear on why you are different.
- Know when & how to disengage – Appreciate that you are both there to Network, empathise that you both need to move on but try to leave them with something – A promise to set up a meeting, maybe a useful article you will send them or details of another event they may benefit from. Note it and make sure you do it.
There is so much we can all do to become better, more successful Networkers and in future blogs I plan to explore in more detail the whole process, from initial preparation to eventually gaining a valued client and advocate for your business. In the meantime, if you have any top tips I would love to hear them!!
Bob Shimmon, Business Loans Manager
Bob had a 35 year career with the Lloyds Banking Group, with 20 years in the commercial sector. He has experience supporting business of all sizes and across all sectors, with specialist knowledge in medical, legal and rental services. Bob is excited about helping clients across Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire to reach their full potential.