Networking – The Dirty Word of Business

It doesn’t matter what field of business you’re in, no business is an island. It may be alien to many people, but networking can be one of the best ways to improve your bottom line. I hate clichés, but people do actually buy from people.

That’s why anyone in business will agree when I say that your best customers are the ones with whom you have established rapport. When you click with each other, you click and the best way to get those relationships is to network. How you network is your choice.

Face to Face Networking Events

In my experience, these are great for local clients, but if you are chasing big contracts, it’s important to widen your horizons and be prepared for travel. The important thing to remember is that costs can mount up and it’s not a good idea to travel to event after event if you don’t see any return.

The best advice I can give is to hone your skills on local events where your expenses are minimal and that way you naturally become more confident in semi-formal encounters without breaking the bank.

As a rule, the two people I always target at a networking event are the host and the person booking everyone in and handing out the badges. This is because they both have access to details about everyone at the meet and a casual conversation with them will give you the chance to ask who’s who and identify the people that you need to target. This saves you lots of time usually wasted in small talk with people who will never benefit your business.

Avoid the Blinkered Approach

Despite my tip above, don’t be fooled into thinking that people you can’t sell to are of no use. I’ve had just as many people refer customers to me as I have found customers myself at networking events. That’s why it’s called networking and not contacting.

It’s great if you can point a few people in the right direction too, because this is ingratiating and you soon find people returning the favour.

Online Networking

The biggest mistake people make when networking online is finding out where their customers are networking. If I want to find a new client, I don’t swap comments in LinkedIn groups with fellow writers and SEO pros. I get involved in the discussions with people in my target market. I chat about business issues with business owners and managers and I build my reputation and win their confidence.

After all, I may be a professional who works from more or less alone with a little outsourcing to suppliers here and there, but I run a business too. If your business is laying drainage pipes, do you want to talk to pipe fitters or do you want to talk to town planners and people in the construction industry?

It’s simple, fish where the fish are and you’ll get a bite sooner or later.

Just don’t constantly pitch your product or service because online networking is about being part of a community and you’ll soon be the one nobody wants to talk to. That advice is the same for LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+ because it’s the same principle on every social network.

Not All Customers Network

You and I may understand the power of networking, but others don’t. It’s not all about meeting people on social networks or at your local chambers of commerce functions. Sometimes, you need to be more direct and target your customer’s websites. It’s a hit and miss process that has much better results when you know your target.

If you are selling to small businesses with a single office and you are confident the person managing their blog is in contact with or is possibly the person in charge of procurement, then it’s worth dropping a few comments on their blog and sharing their content for others to see. Again, this can be ingratiating and it will help you build rapport. Whether your target really believes you have an interest in their business or can see right through your plan is often the difference between you getting an order or not.

My advice is don’t waste more than five minutes every day tweeting and commenting on website content and always make sure you do it using your business profile. If you have a large number of potential clients, outsource this to someone for a bargain basement price with a report on responses and save yourself from constantly checking to see if you have any bites.

Author bio: Karen Underwood is a seasoned networker who loves meeting people in all kinds of business. Her favourite reads are anything posts by Will Critchlow from Distilled and posts on www.entrepreneurhandbook.co.uk.

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Karen Underwood

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Comments

  1. I like that you pointed out the importance of targeting the host or the booking person. Too many of us (especially extroverts, myself included, feel the need to talk to all people!)
    Developing communication skills takes practice. If we can hone in on those that we need to talk to most and stay focused (while still coming across as professional AND friendly) we will be able to meet our goals much more efficiently.

  2. Great points in your article…Networking is so beneficial for businesses of all sizes. Wether it be social networks or good ol’ fashioned in person mixers, get out and get networking if you want your business to thrive.
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  3. Yes, in this social media era, networking is something that not only to have relationship in the internet but also we need to be meet in the real life that could not be replaced with the social media.
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  4. Many people dont like to go to conventions that they have been to in the past because they feel like they will not get any new info out of it. The part they are forgetting is that networking at these conventions and events in many ways is more lucrative than going there for just for product knowledge.

  5. Great! Very informative and helpful for people who are engaged in business and for those who are still planning to have one. Thanks for sharing!

  6. what a nice title for this post. I just love it. It is the thing which drove me to read your post about networking tips, and when i started reading it, I finished it in one go. thanks for sharing these valuable tips with us.
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  7. Beatty White says:

    Hi Karen,This would help in our businesses. Thanks for sharing…..really nice article.

  8. I hardly ever meet other business people face to face now. Most the time everyone will contact me via LinkedIn or I will contact them via LinkedIn.

    It is a bit sad that everything has to be done over the internet these days, but I guess that is how things are changing!

    Great post! Keep up the great work!

  9. Face to face networking events are the most effective in the field of affiliate sales business as i have been doing that for months now !
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  10. Great post! I’ve seen a lot of people staying in their comfort zone by networking primarily with people in their own industry, and I have never entirely understood the trend for exactly the reasons that you outline here.
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  11. Nice Article, I always do not prefer Networking or Network Marketing on a wrong place. Its works but on the right place or among the write audience.
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