According to Joan Sotkin, in her inspiring book The Search for Connection: A Spiritual Journey to Physical, Emotional, and Financial Health, Sotkin came to the conclusion that networking is probably the most effective and least expensive marketing method you can use to build your business or practice, especially if you do business in your local area.
The search for connection is part of a journey called “Life” that culminates in a personal foundation of life formed by a series of responses and adaptations to physical, emotional, and financial challenges encountered throughout a lifetime of learning. If a person does not learn and adapt to life’s lessons learned they are doomed to stay in a rat race for ever and become low performing individuals.
A lot of business owners and practitioners say that they do not like to network, or they have not found it to be effective. That is probably because they do not know how to do it, or they may have unrealistic expectations about the timing of results.
The Drakenstein Business Chamber’s vision is a one liner and typical of what we do:
“We build successful business networks”
At the Business Chamber our strategies are designed with effective networks in mind to serve our members with relevant and value adding information and advice. An important part of this is to facilitate networking meetings with diverse business themes for our members throughout the year.
At these meetings topical experts and practitioners share their knowledge and views with members to act as motivation or trigger to apply lessons learned for the benefit of their own organizations. It is therefore necessary to make the best use of these networking opportunities to ensure participants gain maximum benefit.
But even if you are a bit on the shy side or have reservations about the potential for success with networking, you can gain value from this activity if you follow the useful guidelines below:
1. Choose the right venues. Not every group of people will be right for you. Choose groups where people congregate who share your interests and/or are potential clients. Business Chambers, men’s and women’s organizations, networking groups, special interest groups, and associations are all potential choices.
2. Develop relationships. Networking is not about selling, but rather developing relationships that can lead to sales or referrals. The idea is to get to know people and allow them to get to know you.
Often, people approach networking with the hope of making a sale or getting a client after one visit to an appropriate group. That is not how it works. People do business with those they know and trust, and it can take time to build up that knowledge and trust.
So, approach a networking event without any expectation of getting new business. Instead go with the idea of meeting new people or reinforce the relationships with those you have already met at previous events.
3. Dress appropriately and professionally. Establish yourself as a successful person, which you can do by dressing the part. This does not mean that you need to wear expensive clothes but do wear something a bit on the dressy side and leave the comfortable baggy pants at home.
4. Be prepared. Bring enough business cards, but only give them to people who show a real interest in what you do. Brochures or printed postcards can also be effective. Also, craft a short description of what you do — no more than 10 or 15 seconds.
5. Ask questions and listen. You don’t have to talk a lot about what you do in order to find potential customers. Rather, ask people you meet questions about them and their business, then listen carefully to their answers. Find points of commonality that you can bring into the conversation.
6. Sit with people you do not know. Many events have walk-around networking followed by a sit-down meeting of some sort. During the walk-around, do talk to people you have met before to enhance your relationship, but sit with people you don’t know in order to widen your network and meet potential customers. Here too, ask questions and listen.
7. Talk to people who are standing alone. People attend networking events to meet others. If someone is standing alone, that is the perfect opportunity to make a new contact. You might want to start the conversation by saying, “May I join you?”
8. Move on – politely. Do not spend all of your time talking to one person. Gather the information you need, exchange business cards, if appropriate, and move on. I often say, “I’d like to do some mixing now. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you.”
9. Give to get. Focus on what you can do for others, not what they can do for you. Perhaps you know someone who could use your prospects services. If you do, make the referral.
10. Follow up. If you make a good connection with someone, after the event, send a note saying how much you enjoyed meeting them. If appropriate, send an article or information that they might find helpful. Do not add them to your mailing list without their permission.
Networking is a process, not a one-off event. Take the time to develop relationships with people who interest you. Be proactive and invite someone to a one-to-one meeting so you can get to know them.
Remember that most business owners and practitioners are looking for connections. Be bold and step forward into their world.
To read about Joan Sotkins eventful journey and her amazing conclusions about business networking, please view: www. https://prosperityplace.com/