Whether youíre an introvert or an extrovert, feel like you have gift of gab or just donít know how to make small talk, networking know-how is very important for your business success. There is a notion in business that I believe most of us subscribe to that says ďall things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to those they know, like and trust.Ē And key to this is obviously being able to develop relationships.
Think of networking as cultivation of mutually beneficial, win-win relationships. In order to be win-win, there must be GIVE and take (notice emphasis on give). Networking shouldnít be viewed as ďeventsĒ where you go to sell your business. When effective networking is taking place, parties involved actively share ideas, information, resources, etc.
Ok, so you know that you should be networking because it is one of most cost-effective lead generation activities when used wisely, appropriately and professionally. But, maybe that seems easier said than done. Hereís a seven step plan to really get going with networking for your business.
1. Check out several groups to find best chemistry and perceived value. Most groups will allow you to come and visit at least a couple of times before you have to join. Go and ask around to find out why others have joined and what value they get out of belonging.
Resist urge to just go join Chamber of Commerce simply because everyone tells you thatís what you need to do. If thatís not where your target group can be found, then you might just be wasting a considerable amount of time (and money).
Iím not telling you not to join Chamber. Just be clear about what youíd like to get out of this or any other group. If itís to find prospective clients or referral sources, then you need to be networking where those resources can be found.
2. When you find a group or two, join and go to all meetings you can. Donít go just once or twice expecting things to happen and then if they donít quit. Building mutually beneficial, win-win relationships will take some time.
The contacts you make need to constantly see your face and hear your message. Continual contact with others over time will open up opportunities for you to go deeper and learn more about each others thoughts, ideas and capabilities in regards to your respective businesses.
Know, like, and trust generally only happens over time. Being regular and persistent will pay off.
3. Get involved - be visible. Do as much as you can to make yourself more visible within organization. Volunteer to help with meetings, be on committees, or become a leader or board member.
Being involved does a couple of things for you and your business. First, youíll get more opportunities to establish connections and get to know some of contacts youíve made even better. Secondly, higher visibility you have in group, less youíll have to work to make new connections. Instead, as new people come into group, they will likely seek you out because they view you as a leader within organization.
4. Keep your circles of contacts informed. Donít just assume that running in to someone once a month (or even once a week) will cause them to start doing business with you or sending it your way. You need to let them know whatís going on when youíre not at that particular group in order to inform and educate them.