Networking – The Business of doing Business….

November 23, 2015

How often do we hear the saying: “It’s not what you know, but WHO you know”?
Whether you’re chasing those long-sold-out concert tickets, a job lead or you’re desperately seeking a good plumber – finding the right person at the right time can make all the difference.
It especially rings true in the business world.
The cornerstone of any successful business is the strength of its relationships (both internal and external) and so much of that success rests with the quality of contacts a business owner grows during the years.
That’s why I put so much faith in quality networking.
And by quality, I mean meeting genuine, honest businesspeople that I’d enjoy working with – not just spraying a handful of business cards into the middle of a function and hoping somebody picks one up. That’s not networking. That’s desperation.
When I’m meeting new people, whether for my business or socially, I take a genuine interest in their wellbeing and their personal history.
I spend time with them hearing their background and learning their dreams and aspirations – it can be fascinating and quite inspirational as well.  Never judge a book by its cover often rings true!
That’s why I put so much importance on developing great networking contacts……..and you can too.
So, here are my Top 5 reasons for doing it:

#1 Getting referrals:
First and foremost, having a solid network base can lead to more business (and isn’t that why we open the doors each day)? Good contacts can soon turn into good clients and, ultimately, that can lead to more referrals to your business as word spreads about your particular skills and expertise.
Networking opens doors and provides valuable links to important people in the business sector.

#2 Getting noticed:
By attending events within your community (both corporate and social) you’ll not only be increasing your number of contacts, you’ll continually be building your reputation. And it’s not a one-way street either, as you share your industry knowledge and offer advice and support amongst your peers, very quickly you’ll find they will also be eager to assist you when needed. A sometimes forgotten, but no less important, benefit is that you will inadvertently create great friendships. As you spend more and more time with a person, you’ll soon discover a strong bond develops between you, one built on trust and mutual respect.

#3 Keeping positive:
By its very definition, networking is surrounding yourself with like-minded, positive people that share a common interest. By going into business, these people have made a decision that they want to be a part of their local community and make a difference (and hopefully a profit at the same time). A ‘can-do’ attitude is infectious and keeping company with optimistic, confident, progressive people is both uplifting and educational.

#4 Expert advice:
Want to know how the latest shopping centre development is progressing? There’s the owner standing near the speaker’s lectern. Why don’t you ask him? Looking to change accountants? Fred did it last year and he couldn’t be happier. Maybe you should have a word. Networking allows you to talk to the RIGHT people and discuss issues or seek advice from the people who know. It allows you to have access to business and community leaders through designated networking functions – specifically held to provide an insight into what’s happening in your local area.

#5 Growing confidence:
Have you ever looked at the great operators of the world – in business and politics, especially – and thought: “How do they do it”? Having the self-assurance to speak with confidence and conviction is a true art and very few of us are blessed with this gift. By attending networking events, you’ll soon find that hiding in the corner as a wallflower will not be serving any purpose. You have to mingle. Ultimately, your business growth will come as a direct result of interacting with strangers. As you meet new people (and begin to make new connections) your confidence will skyrocket. It will help your business grow and help you grow as a person.

So, now that you’ve developed these contacts – with many becoming good friends and business clients – what’s next?
Like all good relationships, you need to nurture and maintain it, so it stays happy and healthy.
It may sound a little clinical (especially after I’ve been preaching the warm and fuzzy of networking) but customer relation management is critical if you want to maintain and build on the goodwill that has developed from your initial contacts with a client.
It’s important to have a good working knowledge of your client’s business, so that you can create marketing activities that are specific to that client’s needs.

Most importantly though, you need to make time to regularly ‘touch base’ with your clients – to see how they’re doing. To find out what’s happening in their world. To discover the things that have impacted on their business since you last spoke and to see if you can offer help or a solution to the problems.
It’s all about that relationship.
So, before you hand out your next business card at a function, have a think about the commitment behind it and how you want this new “partnership” to develop.

See you next week,
Lauren x

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