When you mention business networking to people you get a wide range of responses. Many people swear by it, while others are sworn off it!
To some people, the idea of business networking conjures up images of operators who spend their time at events running around grabbing as many business cards as they can, so they can add you to their mailing list and spam you at every opportunity.
Other people are self-conscious and hesitant to put themselves “out there” and think “I’m not really good at sales” – as though that’s all business networking is: a bunch of people running around trying to sell themselves to everyone else.
However, in our work as a marketing agency, we are exposed to a variety of businesses, and time and time again, the leading source of new work for those businesses is from word-of-mouth and face-to-face interactions – often at networking events.
One of the biggest tips we give business owners, especially the more hesitant ones, is to not think of business networking as a sales pitching session or as work, but rather as an opportunity to build relationships.
Build an authentic connection
Showing an interest in other people and asking them insightful and relevant questions is a powerful way to make a genuine connection. And make sure you listen to what the other person has to say, look them in the eye, don’t get distracted, and respond with follow-up questions. Remember quality connections are more powerful than simply a quantity of contacts – so focus on getting to know people on a more substantial level, rather than collecting business cards.
Offer to help
When you are speaking to someone at a networking session, don’t try to push your business or make a sale. Just have a friendly chat, ask some questions, and see how you can help them.
Helping them could be as simple as offering them some advice in your area of expertise or if their query is outside your field, then putting them in touch with someone who can help is a great way to build a connection.
The person you’re helping will appreciate the thought and the person you refer them to will appreciate that you’ve thought of them too. Hopefully you can help both people, and if you do that often enough, the benefits will come back to you. You will build up a reputation as someone who is friendly, helpful and reliable. And that goodwill goes a long way.
Remember to follow-up
After you make a connection with someone, don’t leave it too long to get back in touch. Perhaps you know someone you can introduce them to – and by facilitating a connection between your contact and someone else you know, you are helping further their goals while also building your relationship with them.
Of course, there are a range of other resources you can employ to help you network successfully:
• Take advantage of the professional networking tool LinkedIn
• Establish mentoring relationships to help guide you
• Use a business card app on your phone to scan cards and add to your contacts list (give CamCard a try)
Remember: focus on building relationships, be prepared to help, be yourself and take a genuine interest in the people you meet. If you do this, people will be more likely to reward you with referrals, and chances are you might even find that networking is less like work, and can be both rewarding and fun.
For other ideas about how you can find new contacts that will help your business, call us at (07) 3878 1448 or email firstname.lastname@example.org