If you sell a product or a service to business, joining a networking group can be a fantastic way to grow your business. Before we go any further, let’s counteract a myth – networking is not about selling. How many times have you been at a networking event, and been sold to? Like many people, I’ve suffered as well – and let’s just say their business card hasn’t made it into my new business card organiser. To really hammer home the benefit of networking, 80% of opportunities will come to you from people you already know. You have to remember that when you are talking to someone, that you may not be talking to the end user of your product or service.
The main purpose of networking is to attract opportunities. What I mean by this is that other people refer your services on. There are four ways to attract opportunities:
1) Get known
2) Give into the relationship
3) Keep in touch
4) Be seen in the right places
There are many different ways of getting known – for example, writing articles or a blog, run a seminar, meet up with people. If you keep on doing these things you will start to get known. However, you need to be doing more than getting known – you to be getting known for the right things. I.e. excellent product or quality of service, really helpful person…
One of the best ways to get known for the right reasons is to be prepared to give into the relationship. This could be sharing information – e.g. circulating interesting articles, inviting people to events as your guest, paying for coffee, giving advice (for free), connecting people together.
To get the referral you need to be top of your contact’s mind. That means you need to keep in touch. When you are thinking about whom to refer someone onto – do you remember the person who has most recently been in touch, or the person you haven’t heard from for the last six months?
There are a plethora of networking groups, clubs and organisations out there. As well as picking a group which reflects your personal preferences and values, you need to think about the group’s membership. If your business model requires you to be mixing with executives of medium to large corporations, then a local business networking group is unlikely to enable you to directly attract referrals and opportunities. I.e. you need to be seen in the right places. As well as physically mixing with the right crowd your literature – be it PR, advertisements or articles need to be in the places where your target market are reading.
Heather Townsend is the driving force behind The Efficiency Coach and a co-founder of 'the executive village' - http://www.ifonly.uk.com/Executive_Village.asp
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