Business networking: what works and what doesn’t

Businessmen shaking hands

After running a business networking company for the past two years, Ty Wiggins shares his knowledge on what does and what doesn’t work in business networking.

We have been running a business networking company for over two years now – here’s what we have learned about networking.

These are some of the things that work well amongst the Converge groups.

Spend time with other members of the network

The first is that even though we meet weekly, that is still not enough. Referral relationships are like any relationship, it takes time to develop and work to maintain. Time spent is important.

The members who are generating the most amount of business have taken the time to visit other members’ offices and had those members at their offices (or a mutual cafe).  The key point is that they have spent time together just to get a better understanding of each other’s businesses.

As the famous saying goes, “seek first to understand and then to be understood”. The best networkers are the ones that ask the most questions and do the least amount of talking – they are the ones that really understand what the other does and are in the best position to help.

Work on your referral or sales pitch

Second it has taken some time for some members to refine their ‘referral’ sales pitch. This is the spiel that is needed when talking with potential referrers that is different from the spiel you use with the end consumer. Your referrers are not the end beneficiaries of your product or service and as such often miss the message when you sell them on the benefits. They are focused on their fears and you need to alter your sales spiel to reach them. So the people who are generating the most referrals have this spiel fairly well practiced.

This distinction between what you say to clients/customers versus what you say to the referrals is key to real success. It is as fundamental as the difference between selling the features versus selling the benefits.

Be clear on who is your target client

The next area involves being able to articulate the type of clients. It is very hard for a referrer to identify targets for you if they think they are looking for too broad a group say anyone between 20 and 60. Members that are getting more referrals have been brave enough to limit their target clients for the other members so that they know exactly who they are looking for as potential referrals.

The other aspect of this is that once you have articulated who the target customers are, you can then describe the triggers for that person. These are the events, situations and discussions that will promote the potential client to look for or need your services. The key is communicating these to your fellow members.

Bring your business card

Lastly, and I wouldn’t have thought this was needed but…..business cards. We still have meetings where visitors turn up and our members are business card-less. You don’t have to be selling all the time, and you need to have time when you are not your business – but not having business cards when someone asks is just not productive nor helpful, especially at the network meeting.

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