Archive for the ‘business networking’ category

Networking for More New Business

May 11th, 2012

Definition: Business networking = The process of meeting other people and exchanging resources for mutual gain.

I’m not talking about social media networking; I’m talking about face-to-face networking for business contacts that will help you grow your business. The kind of networking that builds concrete relationships, trust, and inevitably, results.

In the past several years networking as a marketing strategy and business development tool has really come into its own. Many good networking events are available to attend throughout the month. And great Internet sites like Meetup.com can help you easily locate the ones in your area that will best serve your needs.

Small businesses can leverage effective networking practices to win important customers, vendors, investors and partners. Networking forms the basis of many business relationships, and the ability to network well is one factor that may not only differentiate a business, but also ensure its survival.

It is easier than ever to network, especially if you keep the following best practices in mind:

1. Present yourself well. Business networking is often about first impressions, and first impressions are often about presentation. At face-to-face events, dress well, polish how you speak, make eye contact and generally present yourself to impress others with your professionalism and charisma.

2. Don’t overwhelm, but rather, interact. If you approach business networking solely as an opportunity to talk about yourself and your business, you’ll bore people. Make networking more enjoyable by limiting how much (and how repetitively) you talk and by seeking out chances to listen to and interact with the business networking group. Networking is not prospecting, so don’t treat people as prospects. Your goal is to develop at least some degree of relationship with each person you meet.

3. Network with Networkers. Business networking enables you to meet people whom you don’t already know. Many of the people you’ll meet won’t have the inclination to share their networks with you. Don’t try to overcome this attitude. Simply move on because you’re looking for networkers.

4. Any group might just be a business networking group. People define themselves as members of groups such as one’s profession, religion, gender, language, favorite sports team, and others. List the affiliations that matter to you, and then consider them as networking possibilities. Subsequently, you can network through such events as church picnics, support groups, tailgate parties, environmental causes and gender-specific professional organizations.

5. Be selective and diligent. Thousands of official networking events take place every day, and the Internet offers access to millions more; unfortunately, the availability of all of these opportunities leads some business people to take a shotgun approach to networking, which results in the failure to pay sufficient attention to any one opportunity. Identify and act on the highest-value opportunities rather than chasing every possible audience. Narrowing down opportunities will allow you to focus more.

6. Always network. Without turning yourself into someone who is prepared to collar all passersby with your spiel, treat social events; a party, a ball game, a play or any event, as an opportunity to meet new acquaintances who can later become part of a more formal network. Don’t waste time with overly skeptical people. Preach only to the choir. If someone doesn’t get it, don’t try to make them get it. Just talk to somebody else.

7. Help others. While your ultimate goal may be to find clients, customers, investors or to otherwise improve your own business chances and conditions, you are also in a position to help others. Offer whatever resources you can; advice, contacts, support, partnership or investment, in order to increase your value to your business network. This kind of enlightened altruism will eventually rebound to your advantage.

9. Be yourself / Be cool. The best way to network is to be unconscious of the fact that you are networking. Don’t let your mind dwell on the purpose or mechanics of networking. When you spend time with your friends, do you constantly have the purpose of maintaining your friendship in mind? No, you lose yourself in the moment. That’s the kind of approach you should bring to business networking.

Good networking requires you to balance a methodical approach with the ability not to take yourself too seriously. One way to achieve this balance is to keep your methodical self behind the scenes. Plan the events you’ll attend, define your purpose and immerse yourself in your own mini-infomercial. But once you start interacting, maintain a casual and friendly demeanor. You’ll be pleasant to be around and pleasant to listen to, which will differentiate you from the crowd and increase your chances of success. And in business networking, success is defined by becoming known by more and more people. The increase in business you desire will be a natural result. Remember that a key point to networking is that it’s not who you know that counts, it’s who knows you. So get out and network and become known by more and more people.