Business Networking for Success: Have Other Businesses promote yours

The richest people in the world look for and build networks. Everyone else looks for work.

Robert Kiyosaki

It is so simple. Business is slower than it should be and you want a quick fix. The answer, of course, is to get into networking. Find out every event that is on and attend them and get your business cards and sales literature out there and keep doing that until the phone calls keep you too busy. That is the general approach adopted by most of us. Guess what? It doesn’t work.

Networking is nothing about attending events, even less about papering the High Street with our business cards and associated collateral.

Networking is all about building better business relationships. As with any relationship, it takes time, effort and focus. You need to ensure that you are attending the right meetings and connecting with the right people. The Florist may be fortunate enough to meet just the right Accountants, Solicitors and Finance Brokers who are great Customers but will be more effective if the focus is on meeting and connecting with Wedding Planners, Wedding Stationers, Photographers and Hotel Management who will have multiple and on-going streams of referrals. Before you even set out for an event, know why you are attending, who you are intending to connect with and how you can deliver value for these connections.

Quality and not quantity is the golden rule. Review your existing base for excellent referral sources and know who is best for you and why. If you don’t know, ask. You may just be fortunate enough to know the best Accountant (a professional seriously underrated) who continuously passes referrals, though not an obvious link. Think about three people or categories of business that you are going to focus on and leave the social butterflies to collect the maximum number of cards possible. Harvey Mackay quotes his one golden rule about business networking:     “Don’t keep count.”

Take the lead in making it a good event for someone else. The last person to speak to at a business networking event is someone that you know already and have a relationship with. Find someone that you do not know and find a way to help them, whether it is an introduction to someone else or to your own business. The secret to good business networking is to continuously lodge in the bank of goodwill, only making withdrawals when it is absolutely necessary.

Know what it is that you want. The purpose of a business network meeting is to meet and connect with like minded business connections. No other business should take place. Your primary function is to agree and arrange a subsequent meeting for an opportunity to present your business proposition. Organise the meeting and move on, but only after you have left your new prospect safe with another networker who can bring value to them. Equally, there is no point in being foolish. If someone is offering you an opportunity at the meeting, be ready for it and accept it with good grace.

Follow up. Make a note (literally) of the people that you have met and send them a message or contact them after the meeting. Take and retain the initiative. If you have properly prepared your new contact, they will be expecting the contact and glad of the opportunity to learn more about you which may lead them to doing business with you  or, even better, referring you to other better connections for you and your business.

Make business networking a habit. Like anything worth achieving in life, success in business networking comes from good habits. Define how much time and energy you are prepared to invest in networking and get to it. If it is working well for you, continue; if not change your bad habit. If you are attached to a particular business network, take the opportunity to get involved in the running or operation of it, particularly in an area where you have skills or abilities or need to develop them. That raises both your visibility and credibility with other business people in the network.

Enjoy yourself and have fun. Most business networking meetings are hard work. Many of the people attending look like they arrived there at the end of a gun. Resolve to be the person that enjoys the meeting through being committed, enthusiastic and happy to be there. Otherwise, find a different meeting. If you are enjoying yourself, you are more attractive to be with and more likely to do business with people that you connect with.

Professional business networking is the single most effective way to build deep and meaningful business relationships that will go on to give you referrals for your business for ever and ever. If you haven’t already started, plan it and get into action. Don’t wait for the phone to ring; get out and make it happen.