Many of the thousands of business owners I work with; generally hate networking. They feel uncomfortable; going in to a crowded room with hundreds of people; they don’t know. They have to muster every ounce of couraqe to go up to a complete stranger to introduce themselves when often uncertain of the reaction they’re going to get and in fact unsure if they’re someone they want / need to talk to in the first place. Over the past few years 1000’s of networking events have sprung up, in an attempt to boost business opportunities. Many of the events are poorly managed, without a particular focus or set agenda and it’s often pot luck as to whether or not you meet potential partners to do business with. Many business owners are adding more and more networking events to their calendar in the quest of finding new business and are disappointed with their lack of results. Two of the key challenges that SME owners face today are; attracting new customers and; not having enough time. It’s often banded around that networking is a fundamental aspect to assist in the growth of your business. I believe it’s absolutely essential to build great partners around you; to accelerate the growth of you; and your business. However networking for networking sake; is a waste of time. It’s important to get clear on what you really want. How many clients do you want / need to hit your targets for this year. Who are your target audience? Where are they? How can you gain access to them? Once you’re clear on this; you can build a strategy around how you can approach them and begin your business development process. Also get clear on who would be a good partner for you; someone you can potentially establish a joint venture with; which will be mutually beneficial.
Many business owners have networking exhaustion. They are tired of ‘prostituting’ there products / services to random people who may not have any interest or need for their products / services. There are too many events, without a specific focus. People leaving with stacks of business cards; and often not even following up. I stand and watch people racing around a room to talk to as many people as they can; as opposed to; identifying two or three key contacts that could truly make the difference to their business and spending time cultivating relationships.
Some people determine a successful event by the number of cards they pick up. I much prefer to focus on few, not many, and establish a true connection. I work with people that I resonate with and that I like, that share my values. I then set up a meeting to explore the potential of working together. If there’s a mutual fit and benefit to work together, off we go; if not, I continue to keep them in my circle and refer business and help them in any way I can and move on.
So enough of doing more of the same; going to another networking event; doing the same thing and expecting a different result; is pure madness.
Change it up; do something differently – get clear on what you want and find out where you need to go and go get it.
Networking Top 10 Tips
1) Get crystal clear on your target audience and how to gain access to.
2) Laser target your events – only attend events that give you access to your TA.
3) Get clear on your objectives for the event – set your intention on what you want to achieve and expect it. Monitor results from events you attend.
4) Focus on giving – not getting. Focus on genuinely trying to solve key business challenges and adding value whilst talking to potential customers.
5) Focus on a few; not many – less is more. Have quality conversations, make a connection. It’s not about how many business cards you can collect.
6) Be authentic; do what you say on the tin. Never make promises you cannot fulfil.
7) Build rapport with people that you like. People that you resonate with and share your values. People do business with people they like.
8) Never ask for business on your first meeting.
9) Take business cards and pass on yours if asked.
10) Follow up the contacts you want to explore doing business with and begin your sales process; don’t miss out on any of the steps. Only do business with people you feel you can genuinely serve.