The power of networking

June 5, 2009

There is a lot of talk in the business community about networking. There are, as already pointed out, many different types of business-to-business networking available. Unfortunately, many people think that walking into a room full of other people you have never met is ‘networking’ but if you are going to get any benefit out of networking you must have a ‘strategy’. Here are a few tips:

• Pick the right network. Too many people wander from network to network without giving much thought to the types of businesses that you might meet there. Talk to the coordinator of the network in advance and make sure there are businesses that you want to meet.
• Get introductions from key network members. In every network there are people who know everybody else. Get these people to introduce you.
• Have an ‘elevator pitch’. This is a 25 word statement about who you are and what you are able to provide/looking for. Having a pre-prepared statement means that you are less likely to fumble your introduction.
• Give as well as take. The best networkers I know give as much help, information, introductions and contacts as they get. Being of assistance to others gets you a positive reputation and people are very likely to want to return the complement.
• Follow up. Even if it is by an e-mail to say how pleased you were to meet the other person and attach a list of your contacts and website etc. If you do not follow up then no business can be possibly generated.

Here is a key point for new networkers to understand. Business-to-business networks are full of business people. To get to the meeting you have to be a business: even a one-person business. When you are in the room you are one of the club. People in a networking meeting assume that the other people there are business people and there to do business. It doesn’t matter whether you are a one-person business or a large multinational; once you are in the room you are assumed by all to be the equal to everybody else there. All you have to do is get in the room!

Now this refers to general networking. You can also use networking strategically. Let us assume there is a company you want to do business with, possibly even a large company. Getting appointments with senior management can be very difficult, apart from the process of getting past ‘gatekeepers’ (PAs, receptionists etc.). Also, whilst in the office, senior people have many calls on their time. Now, from your research you know the person you need to talk to and want an opportunity to meet this specific person. If you ask the right questions, or in many cases google the person, you can find out what networks this person is a member of. High profile executives tend also to be senior members (Presidents, chairpersons etc) of business networks. If you can get an introduction to the network that the person you wish to meet is a member of, it is likely that you will be able to have an introduction directly to the person, in a relaxed atmosphere where they have the time and the inclination to listen. I have seen senior executives from large multinational companies standing at the door of networking events formally welcoming members, especially new or potential members. These are local chambers of commerce for example, so if you are prepared and organized, you can get to the right person directly, cheaply and effectively through the use of networking.

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