The way of the world is meeting people through other people’ .
Business networking is a two-way opportunity to build relationships and to collaborate with others to share information for mutual benefit.
“I was at a business networking event breakfast and came to speak to Matthew. Both having online businesses in training, we realised that there was synergy between us. We made arrangements to meet. After a number of successful business meetings of getting to know each other, discussing our businesses and industry developments, we have now signed an agreement to work together. It was not an overnight development, rather six months in the making.”
Individuals may mistakenly think that networking is an opportunity to ‘get something’ from the other person for one’s own gain. This is not networking, and puts others on edge. The best networking comes from building genuine relationships where you treat each other respectfully and where you don’t ask for anything. It is a time to give, to put others first and ‘add value’. You can give by sharing knowledge, information, contacts or referrals, or let others know about articles, reference books or courses that can aid them.
‘The currency of networking is not by greed but generosity.’
Networking takes time, and effort to develop relationships. Business networking is generally done face-to-face at business meetings by connecting with likeminded individuals. However, there is also networking that takes place online. LinkedIn and relevant groups, and specific websites provide the opportunity to share your ideas and connect with others nationally and internationally.
Building an effective network helps increase your relationships and contacts that can lead to business opportunities or employment. Here are some tips to help you improve your networking skills.
Build genuine relationships. Aim to build relationships rather than contacts, and aim for quality and not quantity of contacts. The number of people you know, or how many business cards you collect at a networking event does not matter. It is the quality of your contacts that does. Authentic networking is about seeing the individual and connecting with them on a human level.
Make networking a regular activity both online and face-to-face. Be prepared to work on your relationships. It is ongoing and a long term method of building contacts.
Be positive. Many people respond well to positive communication and relationships. No one is interested to hear negative communication about something or someone.
Apply the 80/20 Rule. Aim to listen more than you talk. Ask questions to learn about individuals and their business. This is the greatest complement that you can give another person.
Reciprocate to give something back to others. If you genuinely are unable, sincerely thank the person for their assistance. You may have the opportunity in the future.
For face-to-face networking, follow-up after an event. If you have networked well, you will collect business cards that need to be followed-up on. It helps to be systematic. Here are some suggestions:
- Review the business cards and follow-up with those that you are interested in. Realistically, this will not include all your contacts, only those where there is better synergy with you, your business or career.
- File the business cards, and/or record the individual’s name in your contact list.
- Send an e-mail following the meeting to communicate. Do not promote your business. Thank them for their time and the opportunity of meeting with you. Ensure that the email is about them. Where you can, aim to include a mutual interest or connection. Ask if you can add them to your newsletter campaign/e-mail list so that you can stay in touch and offer ongoing information.
- If you would like to develop the relationship to the next stage, request a one-to-one meeting.
Benefits of networking
There are many benefits to networking. These include:
- Building your professional profile – letting other people know who you are and what you do
- Growing your contacts professional relationships and friendships
- Exchanging industry or professional information and ideas
- Developing opportunities for each party to build their business or career.
- Keeping up to date with developments and trends
The ability to network successfully is a learned skill. It takes time for relationships to develop. Having a large network brings opportunities for professional conversations, access to new opportunities, and a way to tap into the network of others. Effective networking creates a professional presence for you, your business or your career.
‘Pulling a good network together takes effort, sincerity and time’. Alan Collins
What networking experiences have you had that has brought you positive relationships and outcomes?
Leah Shmerling is the Director and Principal Consultant of Career Coaching and Training and has over 30 years’ experience in career development, life coaching, education and training. Leah is the author and publisher of the nationally accredited online short course Foundations in Career Development Practice.
Leah is a professional member of the Career Development Association Australia (CDAA), a Certified Retirement Coach and is Board Certified as a Career Management Fellow with the Institute of Career Certification.
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