Its fair to say that there’s a networking group for practically every sector, and for all business sizes. It can be a little nerve-wracking giving presentations or elevator pitches for the first time, so often a small, friendly group can be beneficial to begin with if you are new to networking. There are also more formal options, groups such as BNI and 4Networking.
“The relationships I’ve made via networking, and the Stansted Business Breakfast group, has generated an enormous amount of business for my company. By the same token I have given a great deal of work to member’s I’ve met through the group.” – Eric Chorley, Guardhome.
Michael –Pagalos – Insignia Group
Networking is another form of social interaction, however with the rise of social media and online interaction taking over our business environment; face to face networking can be daunting to many professionals at all levels.
- Try to attend these on your own or if you take a colleague try not to stand in a corner interacting only with each other otherwise there is no point in attending. Be prepared to walk up to people to introduce yourself and your business. They might be in the same situation as you (first timers and on their own) or they might have been there before and can assist you in meeting some other contacts.
- Be prepared; see which company representatives are attending and find out a little more about what they do. Then when you are there you can ask questions about their business. Also don’t forget your business cards but don’t throw them around like confetti. Make sure you exchange them under the right circumstances and at appropriate moments.
- A key piece of advice someone told me once was listen more than you speak, however if everyone did this at a networking event then not many people would be talking. I prefer the 50/50 approach. Introduce yourself, your company and your services, however don’t forget to ask about the other person to give their background too. Then try and find a common link to explore and open a conversation by asking open questions to get an engaging discussion going. The more interactive and engaging the topic of discussion the more networking contacts will want to join in.
“BNI Networking group have a ‘Giver’s Gain’ mantra, suggesting that if a contact were to give you business, you’d want to reciprocate. To me that is the whole crux of beneficial business relationships and what networking is all about” – Robin Stretton, Director Consultant, BNI ESSEX
Just in case you were in any doubt about the value of relationships in business, here are 7 ways they can really benefit:
- Sharing advice. Within your network there will be someone with experience or expertise in most areas who can give you a few pointers.
- Sharing leads and finding jobs. Just one close contact doubles your chances of knowing someone who has the news, information, or resources you need. The more you focus on your network and relationships, the better connected to opportunities you’ll be.
- Investing and lending opportunities. Building a great rapport with others may help raise finances to develop an idea and grow your business.
- Word-of-mouth marketing. Many businesses will tell you that they get the majority of their business through referrals. These referrals come from business associates, friends, family, and satisfied customers. It’s a free, unbiased, and extremely effective way to promote your work and generate more business.
- Your relationships create new relationships. If you work closely with someone who you’ve impressed, they’re more likely to recommend you.
- Potential partners, employees or freelancers. One of the best reasons to keep up with your relationships is because you never know who you may one day be working alongside.. People change companies all the time. Someone who is a colleague from a previous organization may end up sharing the cubicle next to you at your work, or he might be able to help you find the new hire you’re looking for. Simply put, more positive relationships means fewer enemies, less stress, and no more closed doors.
- Business relationships can turn into good friendships. Whether at work or outside work, days are better when you’re interacting with positive people who you enjoy spending time with. Try and approach each and every person, including your colleagues, as potential long-term friends.
“Be nice to people on your way up because you’ll meet them on your way down”. Wilson Mizner