My Business Manager: The value of networkingIan McManus
I’ve just come home from my second networking event of the week. All that smiling. All that talking and hand shaking. All those wonderful opportunities to spruik my business, and to learn and get support from the people I meet.
OK, you know that I’m a great fan of networking. It really works for me, and my business. However, if you still think networking is the domain of smooth-talking salesmen, you’re in for a pleasant – and very productive surprise – when you finally break free from your shackles and try the 21st century way of doing business.
Meeting regularly with like-minded people can propel your business onto the radar of potential clients, potential business partners, potential suppliers, even potential friends. It’s all about building mutually beneficial relationships.
I see networking as one of the most valuable uses of my time in terms of return – and I don’t just mean in monetary terms.
According to my business manager, networking is free, most of the time (give or take a breakfast or beer here and there). But the advice I receive, the contacts I make are priceless. Many small business owners say they’re too busy for networking. My attitude is I’ll always find time for the things that are important.
Of course I go to some events where everyone is trying to sell to everyone else, but these events are less often now. To be a successful networker, you need to first understand a couple of things:
1.Networking is not something you do only when you want something; it’s a way of life.
2.Networking takes time, because relationships take time. Informal chatting is more likely to lead to opportunities for sales or collaboration than hard sell. Get to know people!
Networking groups abound. I suggest you start online by going directly to www.meetup.com where there are thousands of both social and business networking groups. Social networking can also be about business. Remember? It’s about developing relationships.
It’s today’s equivalent of doing business on the golf course. There’s also LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media, and all those opportunities you hear about on TV, radio, in the newspapers, magazines or via the people you know. A good proportion of your networking should be where your potential customers (or suppliers to those customers) are likely to be. Be prepared to invest time, energy and effort for a good return on your investment.
You could also network by organising your own event. Try an overt sales event or set yourself up as an expert in your field. I’m sure you’ve been to one of those events where the sales pitch comes midway or at the end.
Networking is not about who you can sell to but who you can connect with. Making those connections and developing relationships with people who then know and trust you is how you will grow your business. After all, it’s not what you know, but who you know!