Spreading your net…

Networking – it’s a word which can make grown men and women quiver with fear or to grin form ear to ear. Its one of those things which you either love or hate- you could say it’s the Marmite of business. I often get asked about networking – my clients want to know

· Is it necessary?

· Which networking events should I go to?

· I’m already stretched – surely networking is something I can do when I get myself straight?

· What do I say?

· How soon should I expect to get sales from the meeting?

In this article I’ll cover some of these questions and offer some networking tips which I hope will help you in your networking adventures.

Is Networking Necessary?

Answer = probably.

Being in business can be a lonely experience especially in the early days of going it alone. Networking events can be a great way to meet and chat to other business owners and entrepreneurs to exchange thoughts and experiences. These events aren’t about getting quick sales – the clue is in the name, they are about building a network of people who you can get to know and trust in business. Some very lucky business owners may genuinely not need to build these networks- but most of us do.

What networking events should you attends?

Answer = that depends.

You need to decide what you want to get out of networking and then search for the events which have a good reputation of achieving this for others. One thing I would say is don’t go to a networking event to make quick sales. It takes time to build relationships and for people to like and trust you enough to either buy from you or recommend you to their contacts. Try out lots of different events until you find the ones which feel right, have the right mix of people for your business and which are well organised and focused. Once you find your best events make sure you attend them regularly and that you keep going even if you aren’t getting leads as quickly as you hoped. Patience and staying power should pay off – and the more you go and get to know your peers the more likely you will be to introduce business to them.

How do I fit networking into an already busy schedule?

Answer = just do it!

Networking is a quadrant 2 activity (if you want to know what this means click through to read my time management article). You need to make the time to network, to spread the word about your business, what you can do for others and how they can help you in return. I know you have lots of other things to do but, by getting your time management right, you should be able to find the time and space to make the most of the networking events you select.

What should you say?

Answer= ask questions- be curious.

Yes, you will need a follow up line and to be confident to describe what you do, but your starting point should always be to find out about others. Asking the people you meet about their business, their hobbies, family, passions – in fact making the conversation about them, is the quickest way to get them on your side. People LOVE talking about themselves and finding someone to listen is a real gift. And in return you will earn their trust, build strong relationships and get business referrals in return. So, forget the elevator speech and just relax and be yourself.

How soon should I expect to get sales from the meetings?

Answer= don’t expect anything!

Whilst we all know that we network to make connections and ideally get extra leads and sales but in reality you may never get a sale directly from these events. You are more likely to get other valuable help: professional services (legal, financial etc), tips form other business owners, referrals and introductions to widen your network, a wider social media audience who will share your posts to increase your engagement. All of these are valuable to you and worth the investment of your time at the event.

Networking is a good investment – personally I have made some l helpful connections over the years of networking I have done; I met my accountant, my printer, office supplies company, several clients, and I’ve made some great friends.

Here are my top tips for successful networking:

· Network with an open mind – go to learn about others and get to know people rather than pitching to them

· Try different events until you find the ones that fit your needs

· Don’t leave after the first couple of meetings – you should be in this for the long game

· Do contact the people you meet after the event – this could be through LinkedIn or other social media or just a simple email. You don’t have to do this within the first hour of leaving the event but certainly you should be making contact within 48 hours.

· Follow up – if you have had an interesting conversation with someone and then not heard from them for a couple of months, follow it up. Drop them a chatty email and arrange a coffee meeting.

· If you feel confident enough, apply to be a speaker at a networking event: you get to showcase what you know and what you do.

· Let go of the fear and enjoy the opportunity to meet people, share stores and laughter and just have some time away from the coalface of our business

I wish you well in your networking adventures- if you want to know more about building great relationships and growing your business do get in touch with us.

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