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Networking Its Not About You


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"The best way to get business is through networking"

When I first started out in business, that's what the majority of people I spoke to told me. And I have found that to be true for my business. So what is networking and what makes it so invaluable to its supporters.

My definition would be "making connections and building relationships"

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.

networking Well that evening walking into a room full of strangers 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 that and suddenly felt that awful feeling of “what on earth am I doing here?” Senior Manger 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 nearly 4 years ago. My networking skills and confidence have grown and now I am 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, learning about their businesses and getting more comfortable talking about what I offer and how it may benefit others. I have also learnt that just attending an event doesn't get you the business.

You need to have a goal for each event. (Which doesn't mean collecting 10x more business cards than anyone else!) Having a goal focuses you, enabling you to maximise your time and start you on the road to building meaningful and useful relationships. Gaining contacts doesn't get you business either. You need to have some method of follow up. e.g. phoning them the next day or sending them some material that might be of value and interest to them.

Personally I send an email to the vast majority of people I meet for the first time, which serves 3 purposes.

* It brings me back into their thoughts
* It gives them my contact details (in case they mislay my business card!)
* It's an opportunity for me to highlight the free ecourse they can access via my website and they can then see for themselves on the website what One StepFurther offers and how it might benefit them.

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.

This approach has worked for me, as this is how I have got over 90% of my clients to date. The final point to make is that you can spend all of your time going to network events and that can be very time consuming. I have now become much more focused about which events I go to. After all if an event is not going to have people there that "get networking" then networking becomes yet another "time stealer" and not a value business activity.

Of course, other people may think differently and have other ways of making networking work for them. What works for you?

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 2007-05-01 23:23:57 in Business Articles

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