Getting the best out of networking

I have just been writing my Networking column for my new Business Connection section in my magazines and I have been discussing all the factors you need to consider when choosing a networking group to attend, but of course finding the right group is only the start.

Attending networking events takes up one of our most valuable commodities – time – so you need to make sure you are making the most of the time you spend networking.

I have been networking seriously for nine years now and there are several fundamentals to making networking work for you and your business:

1. When you find a group that you like and that works for your business you need to attend regularly. People take time to get to know you and remember what you do – so get those meeting dates in your diary now.

2. Remember that you are there to build business connections – with all sorts of people and businesses. So don’t write people off straight away if you think they are not a potential customer (you never know who they might work for or know).

3. The people that get the most out of networking are those that put the most in, so focus on what you can do for other people not what they can do for you so don’t go into “Sell” mode at the first opportunity.

4. There are two sides to networking: a) establishing better relationships with people you already know and b) meeting new people. Make sure you do both in equal measures throughout the year.

5. Be prepared. Someone is bound to ask what you do. Try and avoid giving either a one word answer or a long rambling speech. You want a couple of sentences that say something about you and your business and which is easy to understand and remember.

Finally, and most importantly; stop and think for a moment about what you would look for in other businesses / people whose services you might want to use.

Most of us like to work with people with a positive attitude; so a smile and enthusiasm for what you do goes a long way.

We also like to work with people who demonstrate total competency and professionalism in their field so when people ask about what you do pass on advice, tell them about a specific very small detail related to the way you work, mention a project you have worked on recently…so they go away with the impression that you really know what you are talking about.

…and then Be Patient
because successful networking is a long term plan but if you work hard at it networking can really help your business grow.

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