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How To Optimise Your Networking - Part 1

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One of the best ways to get business is through networking. That's what the majority of people told me when I started out and it has turned out to be very true. In fact for the first 2 years I was in business probably 95% of my clients came through networking.

So what is networking, what makes it so invaluable to its supporters and how can you maximise your networking time?

My definition of networking is

"Creating mutually beneficial relationships with like minded people with whom you can offer and receive value, knowledge and support over time"

I remember when I first established One Step Further I went along to a network evening in central London at which various entrepreneurs and senior city executives were to speak about their businesses and what they had learnt on their paths to success.

They say that the number one fear is public speaking; death is number two and in the top five is walking into a room full of strangers. Well that evening that was firmly my number one fear. I arrived early and walked into the area where I was offered a glass of champagne and an attendee list. I scanned the list and suddenly felt that awful feeling of "what on earth am I doing here?" Senior Manager of company X, MD of Company Y, Director of ABC, I was in awe of a list of names! However, I was determined to brave it out.

As people started to arrive I smiled nervously at a few people praying that someone would take pity on me and speak to me. Fortunately they did and we had an interesting 10 minute conversation about their business. I managed to repeat that scenario 2 or 3 times that evening before being released from my fear and ushered into a room to listen to the speakers, all of which were highly entertaining and gave me inspiration for what might be achieved if you follow your passion.

That was April 2003 and all through that first year, I continued to attend similar events. I soon became the one introducing myself to the nervous newcomer hoping for someone to talk to.

So what changed?

I decided that if I focused on other people's business, other people's interests and engaged them in conversation it made for a much more enjoyable experience. Sooner or later most people do say, "So what do you do?" which comfortably let's you talk about what you offer without it appearing a "sales pitch"

I have also found that if you are up front about why you are at these types of event and actually say what you want, people respond. I spent my first 5 or 6 networking events gaining confidence speaking to different people and learning about their businesses and getting more comfortable talking about what I offer and how it might benefit them. I have also learnt that just attending an event doesn't get you the business.

You need to have a goal for each event, be it - help 10 people with a problem, target 5 people in sales positions or speak to 10 people in the IT industry. Having a goal gives you focus, enabling you to maximise your time and start you on the road to building meaningful and useful relationships. However, getting 20 business cards is not a good goal and doesn't get you any where in itself. Networking is about people and relationships and not about who can collect cards the quickest and then go home and spam the poor people with sales pitches - an exaggeration? - may be not!!

Gaining contacts doesn't get you the business either. You need to have some method of follow up. For example, phoning them the next day or sending them some material or useful information to them.

Personally I send all new people I meet an email which serves 3 purposes.

1. It brings me back into their thoughts.
2. It gives them my contact details (in case they mislay my business card!).
3. I offer them the opportunity to access my free ecourse and subscribe to Quickstart which gives them immediate value.

I also enter all their details into my contacts database with a note about what their business is about, what we discussed and any memorable snippets about them. This also enables me to be able to refer them onto people who might be looking for their service at some future point and to send them some valuable resources or information that I subsequently come across. This approach really works for me.

I have now become much more focused about which events I go to and why. After all if an event is not going to have people there that may generate business or business relationships in areas that my business is focused on, it is another "time stealer"

Networking is a critical part of the "marketing pie" but without careful planning and thought it can be time consuming and unproductive. In order to avoid networking becoming another time stealer, I have 10 tips to maximise your time at networking events so look out for those in the next issue of Quickstart.


About the Author

Beverley Hamilton works with independent business consultants to help them grow a profitable consultancy and still have time for their life. You can get my Free Ecourse Discover the 5 Most Common Incorrect Assumptions Independent Business Consultants Make and a complimentary subscription to Quickstart, the newsletter specifically for consultants. Go to One Step Further for more instantly accessible resources. Your future Your choice!


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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2008-03-16 19:24:01 in Business Articles

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