Networking is not a new idea. Everyone has someone who can do something for someone else. “Old boy” networks, marital matchmakers, people of influence, it is certainly not only a United State phenomenon. This is mirrored in the culture or every business in every country.
Networking as a critical part of a business person’s set of skills has taken on a new importance.
Today, seventy percent of businesses belong to one or more business development groups or associations. Twenty five percent belong to two or more.
Why is it that corporation are allotting financial resources to an unseen process that is difficult to qualify? Why is that local and regional periodicals are providing a list of business events that include business cards exchanges, network meetings and events that tout networking opportunities? Why is it that databases are crammed with names of people that we just met and do conduct business with? Why is it that our calendars are packed with networking meetings?
Networking has grown and developed into an industry classification, a necessary job skill and a new corporate position. If you are not part of the process, you will be crushed by it. Networking is the future, and your future will only be guaranteed if you network.
The acceptance of networking as a business tool has opened a number of interesting possibilities.
- Networking is a required job skill
- Networking as a learned skill
- Networking groups have become move valuable
- Networking is the impetus for strategic alliance and mergers
Networking is now one of the best tools for business development. If you or your company is not yet committed to these opportunities, you better start now.
Good Relationships Produce Business!
Aligning yourself and your company with other business people is a sure way to encourage growth – but don’t expect it to happen overnight, Successful networking takes a willingness to give information, ideas, resources and leads-without the expectation of a quick return. It takes time to build a relationship, but the payoff is tremendous. Remember, people do business with those they know and trust. This also applies to network partners who will be giving you referrals. To build that strong relationship where you have gained the respect of your networking partner you must make the other person feel that you are interested in helping them as well as having them refer to you. You accomplish this by taking the time to meet with them. To listen to what they need and want from you. The quicker you and your networking partner understand each others business and type of referrals needed the quicker it will happen.
Here are some questions you should be asking your network partner to explain:
Please tell me about your best client.
What is the benefit you and your firm offer your clients?
Who makes the decision to use your product or service?
What specifically should I say when I describe your company to one of my clients?
Getting the Most Out of Business Networking Group:
A network is not a collection of business cards, but of people. Take the time to understand the business of those in your network. If you’ve chosen members wisely, this should be a pleasure. And make sure that you educate them completely about what you do and whom you do it with. Give other updates and encouragement. If effect, you become each others’ sales people.
Remember that the purpose of networking is not to make this network partner your client it is to get business from everyone this person knows.
You should also be able to turn to those in your network for management ideas, advice, leads, even vendor recommendations. You will learn from each other and contribute to each other’s growth, both in terms of profit and performance.
How to Cultivate a Network of Referrals:
Business people should approach meeting other people using two goals: get to know as many as possible, and get them to know you.
Networking is a two-way street. When you meet someone, you want to ask them about their business and tell them about yours. Start with the basics – name, company, affiliation, position, nature of business, etc. You next want to find out if you can benefit each other. Try covering these topics:
What does your company do?
What types of clients do you serve?
What makes the buying decision within a firm for each of your services and / or products?
What sets you apart from your competition?
Another criterion is to look for people who are truly interested in helping others solve a problem, no strings attached. In other words, don’t think of yourself as a networker but as a problem solver, and look for those same characteristics in someone you will consider adding to your personal network.
Get SMART About Networking!
As your contact base grows, you have to re-evaluate the people in your information loop. Practice effective time management skills and prioritize your contacts. You will want to get in touch most often with those that can be most useful to you. They will become your inner circle.
Be careful never to burn bridges; you never know when someone will be able to help you, or when you will be able to help them. If you feel as though someone is not useful to you right now, you still will want to check in with them now and again, because they may become important down the road. In other words, be nice to everyone because you never know where they’ll show up.
Networking is the single-most powerful tool for business development. As business owners, you are aware that you have two full-time jobs. First, you must maintain the business that you have and keep existing clientele happy. Second, you must increase your market share by selling to new people. Networking provides you with the opportunity to work smarter, nor harder. If you utilize the people in your networking group for the purpose of providing immediate quality solutions to problems that they have, you have tapped the power of networking.