Business networking can serve a variety of purposes. Effective networking can help to increase sales, expand vendor relationships, and find joint venture partners. Additionally, in this economy one never knows when the need for a job might arise — and effective business networking can put in place a safety net which ensures multiple offers should this scenario arise for you. Business networking is a simple concept at its core, but many fail to incorporate several critical elements. Proven tips for maximizing your business networking efforts include:
Effective networking is about building relationships and trust. Glad-handing disingenuous interaction is easily detected, and the odds are high that your efforts at building a network will not be helped if you take this route. Approach potential relationships in a genuine nature always being yourself — being real will enable establishment of relationships with a basis of trust.
Become A Resource
Establish yourself as a helpful resource for peers in your industry or sector. This can relate to provision of useful information, volunteering for industry support efforts or providing references for vendors. Once you become known as a go-to source for information, then future members of your business network will end up coming to you as opposed to you having to tediously seek them out at conferences and other events.
Business people are always looking to expand their networks to include those with information and contacts within all possible niches. Developing a core of information and/or contacts within an arcane or lesser-known area of your industry makes you a “must have” for other’s networks — and yours will naturally expand as others seek you out for your particular expertise.
Don’t Be Shy
Many networkers fail to articulate exactly what they are seeking from potential counterparts. Don’t be shy — come right out and assert that you desire the given person you are meeting to be within your network, and clearly articulate what role you see them fulfilling.
Business is a serious affair, however its participants still enjoy having fun. Seek out opportunities where you can entertain potential new network members. This can range from dinner parties to golf outings — whatever is most natural and comfortable for your lifestyle.
Explore Different Opportunities
Conferences or meetings which you otherwise wouldn’t think would be productive could be ideal opportunities to expand your business network. If you go to the same events over and over, then the odds are you are meeting the same people time and again without increasing the universe of your contacts. Take opportunities to veer “off the beaten path”, and attend a few meetings or events which will expose you to alternate groups of peers or potential customers.
Follow Up Closely
Always follow up rapidly on promises to make contact or arrange future meetings. A lack of follow up sends a signal that you are disinterested in a potential contact — a signal you obviously do not wish to send.
As indicated, business networking can serve varied purposes and be used to achieve several different goals. Some networking efforts are pure business affairs geared to generate sales, while others are geared to facilitate learning and identify potential mentors. Remain cognizant of what your particular goals are, and seek venues and networking opportunities which support your desired aims.
Use Open-Ended Questions
Use open-ended questions when engaging in networking related conversations. Do not ask questions or make comments which elicit a yes or no answer — frame your queries in such a fashion which requires a long form reply. This enables you to more efficiently identify if — and if so, in what fashion — the person fits into your business network.
Volunteering is obviously a great thing to do for your community, but it also provides for avenues to expand your business network. Identify causes you support which also are likely to attract other supporters who would be good candidates to include within your networking efforts.