Business networking is an integral part of our marketing strategy and we know we’re not alone in that mindset. However, I have had two rather distasteful experiences recently that made me wonder – how many people are getting the concept of business networking wrong?
Sell through the room, not to it
There is a common misconception about business networking and that is that you’re there to get business from those in the room. I suggest that you would be wise to see your fellow networkers as a potential source of your future clients, rather than seeing them as your target.
Thing is, if you get this concept wrong, you will drastically reduce your chances of ever making that group a successful one for your business.
Sure, you may pick up one or two clients from the group who are members – consider that an added bonus. However, trust me when I say that if you consider your fellow networking colleagues to be your unpaid sales staff (that’s how they’ll consider you!), you’ll do far better.
You’re no good to me
That leads me nicely onto the next faux pas – never consider someone to be no good to you. I began speaking to somebody recently who, it transpired, was at her first-ever business networking event. When I first met her, she seemed quite upset. When I asked if she was ok, she told me she had just said hi to someone who took her business card, cast a quick glance across it, then thrust it back in her hand stating “You’re no good to me!” before instantly walking off.
Besides being incredibly rude, that’s someone who will be lucky to get any work from anyone with such an attitude. The thing is, networkers look out for each other. We all know who the good networkers are and whilst business might be passed between good networkers with little said, there will be plenty said when a bad networker appears within a group.
These people are also missing a huge trick by being so myopic – they may not be your ideal client themselves, but who do they know who could be? For all you know, they play golf with the CEO of the company you’d absolutely love to get in with. Wouldn’t that be a great introduction?
I tried it once and got nothing
I’m sure those of us that network will have heard this so many times. Business networking is about building relationships, getting to know people, getting to understand them and their business, even getting to find out a little about their private lives – what sports team they support, what pets they have, children’s names etc.
If you go along to one business networking session expecting to leave with a dozen deals in your back pocket, you will be sorely disappointed. However, if you take business networking as it is – a long game if you like – and make contacts, nurture them, gain trust, become the “go-to” person in your group, then you will find business networking is very rewarding indeed and sometimes when you least expect it.
One particular friend of mine (I met him through 4Networking) is a testament to that! After 6 months of my attending that group, my friend left, explaining that he had to spend several weeks visiting the United Arab Emirates to deliver some training. It turned out that a couple of years earlier, he had struck up a relationship with a fellow networker, over time, and exchanged details. That fellow networker had remembered my friend some 18 months later, when in conversation with a friend of his who owned a company in UAE. When they got onto the subject of training, the recommendation was made and my friend was invited to pitch. He won the pitch and his business is now better off to the tune of five figures or more!
Now, had they never got to know each other over their time spent together in that business networking group, that recommendation might never have materialised. See what I mean?
Business Networking works!
Business networking works, it’s a proven fact. However, you have to get it right if it’s ever going to be a valid means of revenue. These tips aren’t rocket science and there are plenty of others, not least of all that you have to give in order to get. But get the basics right and you’ll become a more experienced and adept networker sooner rather than later.
Interested? If so, chat to either me or Steve – we’re both members of groups local to us and would love to see your business flourish as ours continues to do so through business networking. We’re even exhibiting at The Business Networking Show (the UK’s Largest business networking event) in Wolverhampton on Friday 18th September. Come and see us there!
If you are interested in coming along, get in touch and we’ll advise you what groups are available when – we’ll even buy you breakfast!!! Now you can’t say fairer than that can you?