There is the possibility the term ‘Business Networking’ may make you cringe, especially if you are an introvert. Or like many people, you may wonder if there is a more effective way to network instead of two paces forward, one back or spinning your wheels and going nowhere. The key to business networking is that it is much more than showing up at an event, shaking hands with a bunch of people and handing out business cards.
Networking to grow your business needs to be strategic and focused. Not everyone you meet will help move your business forward but everything you do can be done with the intention of growing your business. This means you have to be proactive. Understanding what business networking is, making a plan, staying focused and stepping up to the challenge just may open avenues of opportunity that you might never have discovered otherwise and you will be making a valuable investment into the steady growth of your business.
So what exactly does it mean to business network? Effective business networking is the linking together of individuals who, through trust and relationship building, become walking, talking advertisements for one another! Often the best networking can happen when you are not trying to network! Why? Because it’s about a relationship with that person and their business.
Firstly, to have a relationship, you must know them. This stage can’t be skipped or underestimated. You have to know they exist, who they are and what they are about, then allow the relationship to simmer for a bit. The key to forming a connection is to find common ground. As the relationship grows so can the trust. This step is not always easy. It is important to be organised and to have integrity, as the trust builds both ways. Allow yourself to give referrals, make introductions and help others. At the same time, by being prepared and understanding what you need, you can also be open to accepting the help of others.
Having a better understanding of what business networking is, you may be able to find creative ways to connect with people whether at a networking event or online, through social media or other sources. Business cards may work for you or you might find a personal email or hand written card more effective. Even connecting through a personal message on social media may help to break the ice.
So how do you go about networking when talking to people makes you break out in a cold sweat? For the introvert the written word can be a lifesaver and you may find connecting online the most helpful form of building the relationship, but if it is more appropriate to help your business grow by meeting people face to face there are tactics you can use to facilitate this process. Firstly, be prepared! Prepare your small talk in advance and an opening line or one-liner to get those conversations started. It may seem contrived but once the conversation starts they tend to keep going without too much effort. Since introverts are generally pretty good listeners, if you keep asking people about themselves and their interests, they are usually happy to talk uninterrupted!
You need to know your ‘elevator pitch’, in order to be able to make a statement in the shortest possible time. Taking steps to network may not always appear simple or straight forward. However, with practice and planning you and your business will benefit from the new skill you have developed. Your networks and relationships could be the key to unlocking new doors and what your business needs to reach new heights or head in a different direction. Some of my best clients have come through networking. Give it a try!