Getting the most out of networking
Networking is not a quick fix. It’s not about selling either. If you really want to get the most out of networking, you have to be prepared to invest in building relationships before anything else.
As a Women in Business Network (WIBN) Associate for five groups, I’ve learnt a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t. The people who gain the most from networking, take the time to get to know other members in the group, offer support without strings attached and share their own vulnerabilities as well as their strengths. This is where real connections begin to flourish.
Of course, ultimately, you want to gain more business through networking, so it’s not just about turning up and chatting with friends over lunch once a month. Equally, hard selling is simply a turn off and does nothing for building those all-important relationships.
With this in mind, I’ve put together my top tips on how to build your way to networking success.
- Change your mindset: Think not about what you can sell to the group but what relationships you can grow. Build these first and you’ll find that business starts to flow more easily as people get to know, like and trust you.
- Provide value: Consider what you can do for other people, what connections can you make, what advice can you offer. You will soon start to notice how others reciprocate.
- Don’t be perfect: While you may think you always need to present a perfect version of your business, don’t be afraid to open up about the challenges you face. If you show people your human side, people are more likely to relate to you and you’ll develop deeper connections as a result.
- Think beyond bums on seats: There may be people in the room who are unlikely to need your products or services, but don’t assume anything. You never know what these connections can lead to, either in terms of referrals or collaborations. Plus, as their business develops they may well need you in the future.
- Invest time outside the networking meetings: Although structured networking meetings provide a valuable opportunity to meet up and find out more about each other’s businesses, networking shouldn’t stop there. Try to book a one-to-one with at least one person each month to really get to know them better. Many people arrange these before and after the meeting, to make the most of the time.
- Build your support network: Consider what value you gain from networking beyond business contacts. For many, the support of other members in the group is crucial to their business and personal development. One of the most satisfying parts of this job is seeing how members support each other, providing valuable advice, helping to boost each other’s confidence and developing genuine friendships.
- First impressions count: Remember when you walked in the room for the first time and didn’t know anyone? Did a friendly face come over to greet you and make a special effort to make you feel welcome? Then you probably felt extremely grateful to them for that act of kindness. Try to do that for others, even if you are keen to catch up with old friends – reach out and you’ll always be remembered.
By putting relationship building at the heart of your approach to networking, you stand to gain far more than a burst of extra business. You will gain a community of supporters who will help you to succeed and be with you every step of the way on your business journey.
If you would like to find out more about my groups in, Braintree, Dunmow, Hertford, Saffron Walden and Stansted please contact [email protected]
New group launching in Cheshunt in Spring 2018