There is no doubt about it, it’s getting harder and harder to prospect by phone and by email. That’s why networking has become such an important and effective way of generating business. For some businesses, this is all they need to do. For others it’s just one of several lead generation strategies that they may be using.
Networking is not an activity that should be trivialised. It is a serious lead generation strategy that takes thought and planning in order to achieve success. Getting a good business result from networking is not as simple as it may at first seem. One has to do much more than simply show up and be friendly. Even within structured networking organisations, it takes effort and skill to find the people who meet your needs who either go on to become star referrers or perhaps customers. So it does not stop at meeting them. You will need strategies for developing partnerships so that you end up with a win-win relationship that endures and you will need to clearly understand the law of social reciprocity to be successful.
So here are the top 7 tips for successful business networking:
- Don’t go looking for people who can help you. Go looking to help others. Showing a genuine desire to help others, will make them be more open to trusting you, and being willing to do business with you. The very first thing you should do is provide something useful to the person you are looking to get referrals from. If you do, they will feel obligated to you and much more likely to give you referrals.
- Don’t just go and network. Have some goals and have a plan. An exercise that is goal directed will always be more productive than one that is not. Keep track of how you are progressing and adjust your efforts and technique accordingly.
- If you are planning to join or are a member of a networking group, make sure to choose your networking group carefully. You will be investing time and effort over a long period of time with your networking group. So check out different groups and make sure the one you choose has the right sort of contacts that you are looking to work with. Remember, the real objective in networking is to gain access to your network partner’s contacts and not necessarily the partner themselves. Make sure that the group’s members are a good fit before committing.
- Make use of the Law of Reciprocity. Good networkers understand that time has to be invested in getting to know one another before sufficient trust has been developed and a referral can be expected. So if you fail to invest time with them, don’t expect any referrals. From a different point of view, according to the law of reciprocity, you are far more likely to get a referral once you have given one, or at least made a sufficiently valuable gesture.
- Be super clear and concise in articulating the value you provide, and concentrate on making a good first impression. If you are not, you could find yourself being passed-by or not taken seriously.
- Make sure you practise proper referral etiquette, or you may risk losing out on future referrals. When you get a referral, act quickly and keep the referrer in the loop in relation to the progress you are making. After all, he is risking his reputation in referring you, and is looking for kudo’s if you do well.
- Build a network of trusted referral partners, so that when you meet someone new, you can be resourceful by introducing them to people you know and trust. This will make them trust you more and have more confidence in you, and help you greatly in gaining another new source of referrals.
Of all of these, I think point No 2 is the most important. Most of the people that I talk to that express frustration with the outcomes they get from networking, are guilty of just turning up. If you are already putting in the networking time, doesn’t it makes sense to use that time as part of a bigger picture plan?