Networking is a term that comes with small business. It is incredibly important to network and important to have a good steady network. Getting out of your comfort zone and mingling in different circles could mean a new client or business partner that you never would have met before. Networking can be instrumental to the growth of your business.
Dynamic Business asked experts how networking has accelerated growth in their companies.
Ren Butler, Manager, Inspire9 Coworking Space:
If you think networking sucks, you’re probably doing it wrong. Networking needs to be 60% listening, 40% sharing value. The reason why some people find it difficult or painful is because there was a misinformed idea that it should be primarily talking yourself up. Nobody wants to listen to somebody talk about themselves without establishing a reason. Good networking is about finding your common ground with new people, ideally quickly and effectively. That’s one of the reasons why well-cultivated coworking communities help establish seemingly non-obvious similarities within their community. Once interesting connections are unearthed, conversation flows much smoother, one’s professional value can be identified and possible business or project collaboration can be discussed. Your goal should walk away with something unique and memorable about that person so when that LinkedIn request pops up you don’t ask, “Who were they? What did we talk about?” and vice versa.”
Katie Kirsopp, Founder, Your Part Time PA:
Networking is so for professionals. Let’s face it, anyone in business knows the phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
No matter how experienced and educated you are, you will do better off when you are in situations where you have a foot in the door.
One of the best ways for you to create contacts and expand your connections is to network. I love being social so I’m constantly looking for new ways to network.
I regularly attend networking activities, go to dinners and join networking groups. The obvious benefit of networking is to meet potential clients or to generate referrals. Word-of-mouth is a fabulous thing. The more events you go to, more people will know your name, and therefore, know your business.
Some of my top tips for successful networking are:
– Know your audience. Make sure you do your homework.
– Fine tune your elevator pitch. This is the what you say to someone when they ask you what you do. Because you have researched the audience attending the event, you will be able to tweak this to meet suit their needs. This is one of the most important things you can do leading up to an event.
– SMILE- be approachable and friendly. Go and introduce yourself- there is no point going to an event if you are going to sit in a corner and wait for people to come to you.
– Remember, everyone in the room is relevant. Get to know people. You never know what may come of it.
– Believe in yourself! You can do this and you do have something valuable to offer people.
Most importantly…. remember your business cards! You would be surprised how many people forget them. Ensure you follow up with anyone you have had a conversation with, this is a definite non-negotiable!
Most importantly relax and have fun and if you’re lucky, you can also gain valuable friendships with like-minded and inspiring business owners.
Troy Douglas, Nexba, co-founder:
When you are a founder networking is your responsibility. Building and maintaining relationships is your opportunity. At Nexba Drew and I spent over 12 months prior to having our first little canning line in Hornsby meeting with as many inspiring people in life and business that we could. The power of networking for me is the ability to listen and learn. To be inspired by the stories of people whom you admire who have gone on to make an impact personally and professionally. There is nothing more satisfying than when, through years of harnessing relationships, you hear of someone’s opportunity and they remind you of someone else you can connect and make them an introduction.
My favourite successful networking story is ten years old. Being one of fifty in a room designed for twenty the networking commenced with an apology regarding the aircon whilst celebrating the demand for the event. A fellow captive said. “Good evening my name is John”. His last name was difficult to read, impossible to pronounce. “Hi John, my name is Alan” I replied. “And what business are you in” he asked in polished networkers manner. “Service Exports” I replied, exchanging business cards. Immediately the crowd moved into a larger room leaving me with the card of a stranger. Some months later I desperately needed an expert in a narrow field to improve the business. The networking event from hell gave me the card of one of the few in Australia. Hi I said as I rang his personal number, I hope you remember me. Of course he said he did. It was a case of not what you know but who know to solve my problem. That is why I say every networking event is worth the effort.