Your Business Network – Part 4 – Honing your Networking Skills

In this multi part blog, one of our founders, Robert Newman, analyses the best ways to grow your business network with exerts from his book –  ‘Your Business Network – How to build and grow your network’.

This week, we discuss the best tips and tricks to improve your networking skills in the future.

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Preparation

Do you have a specific target market?

Do you know where your best clients are and where they network?

Do you have the time to spend networking in general events like chamber of commerce meetings?

These events are excellent for meeting a wide range of people, but if you have only a limited amount of time to network, you should be spending it with the most target rich networkers.

For example, if your product is for women and you have time for only one event per month, that event should be held by a women’s organization. If you market to doctors, find out when their events are being held and get invited to one of them.

Examine the events that you generally attend. Write down each one. Then write down the groups you belong to. Are they best suited to promote your products and services, or would your time be better spent networking at other events and in other groups?

Next, determine who you need to know. You do this by deciding what you need to know, who you know that can help you with it now, and what new people you need to network with who can fill in the gaps in your information and experience. Decide what your goals are and what you need to do to reach them.

  • Which people do you know currently who can help you reach your goals?
  • Which people do you know currently who have connections with people who could help you reach your goals?
  • Who do you know currently who can help you strategize what you must do to meet your goals?

If possible, find a way to meet the people you need to know by researching what groups they are in and what events they might be attending in the near future.

Dress appropriately

Choose clean, comfortable, well‐fitting clothes that are appropriate for the event. Think about what you will need to bring with you. Do you need business cards? Do you need a briefcase? Do you need to bring something to eat or drink?

If you’re a little shy about meeting new people, remember that you have plenty to offer other people ‐ they will be as lucky to meet you as you are to meet them. Remember, this event is about meeting other people and you have your list.

Remember, this is a networking event and everybody is there for the same reason ‐ to meet other people. So don’t under socialize or over‐socialize ‐ meet the people you came there to meet, and enjoy yourself while you’re doing it.

 

Presentation

Arrive at the event early. It’s easier to meet people then because there aren’t so many people there yet.

Start a conversation with someone before the event officially begins; once people start to arrive, you will already have met a few people. If you arrive late, people will already be in groups of conversations, and that’s harder to break into.

Don’t be afraid to make the first move. Approach them instead of waiting for people to approach you. On the other hand, don’t feel you have to give your entire life story. That’s not appropriate these events. Instead, concentrate on remembering the other person’s name, find out what he/she does and what he/she needs, and then tell him what’s relevant to him/her about you.

Finding common ground is the foundation of most relationships. Since you’re attending the same event, you must have something in common. Find out what that is while you’re researching beforehand if possible, and build rapport based on what you have in common.

Follow‐Up

Now that you’ve invested time and energy into a networking event, you want to get the most benefit possible from it. That doesn’t mean putting the business cards in a drawer and forgetting all about them.

A great way to make sure you follow up is to ask everyone you meet ‘I’d like to keep in touch with you – is it ok if I add you to my Friday email that I send out. It’s a short email with a tip on (something that is a problem for your clients). By asking everyone this – you HAVE to add them to your database. If you don’t have a weekly keeping in touch email consider doing one. If that seems like too much of a task, then ask “I’d like to keep in touch, is email the best way of contacting you?”, and then follow up as outlined below – using their preferred method of communication.

1. Develop a tracking system

Whether it’s a Rolodex, a database, or another tracking system, you need to put the business card information into a searchable system that you can always refer to and bring up their name, company, what they do, and how you met.

2. Send an e‐mail

Fewer than 10% of people actually follow up after the first meeting. You will set yourself apart if you send an e‐mail with some information about something they’re interested in. For instance, if you talked about hobbies, vacations, or diets, Google some interesting information about that topic and attach it to your e‐mail. Not only are you remembering them, but you’re also sending them something of value. This will put you in the top 1% of
networkers.

3. Give a referral and follow up

If the person you met asked for a referral, you can follow up with an e‐mail that includes that referral, and then follow up again to see if the referral worked out.

4. Thank you notes

An alternative approach would be to send them a thank you note that includes a brief summary of what you discussed at the event along with some information relevant to something they talked about.

This cycle is very effective. Go to an event, follow‐up with an e‐mail and some information, and follow up with another e‐mail. Repeat the e‐mail, gift, e‐mail cycle. It takes some time to build a relationship, but this method is very effective.

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In the next blog, part 4, we’ll discuss the obstacles to good networking and how NOT to network!

Your Business Network – Part 3 – What Type of Networking is Right for You?

In this multi part blog, one of our founders, Robert Newman, analyses the best ways to grow your business network with exerts from his book –  ‘Your Business Network – How to build and grow your network’.

This week, we discuss what exactly the correct type of Networking is and which one is right for your business.

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“Instead of telling the world what you’re
eating for breakfast, you can use social
networking to do something that’s
meaningful.”
Edward Norton

It can be formal groups or informal groups or social network groups. Formal networks are groups of people that come together for networking purposes or because they have a common interest.

There are many formal network groups and each has their own set up, and there own way of working. Groups can meet weekly, fortnightly, monthly, bi‐monthly or at other intervals.

Some require a commitment – either in the form of a joining fee and / or in a minimum requirement for attendance. Some are relaxed (like First Wednesday!) – turn up and talk to
people. Some are structured – there is a format for the event. Some are breakfast meetings, some lunchtime and some early evening/after work.

Some groups will let anyone attend / join, in others they restrict the number of businesses in any one category.

The best way to approach it is to try different groups, and see which you think have the right people in them By the right people, we do not necessarily mean people who you are going to immediately do business with. It is rare that anyone in a service business for example would come away from a network meeting with a piece of business at the first go.

Rather you should look at the type of people at the event – are they decision makers? Do they appear to have good networks themselves? Is it a network where people come and go – which could be good for business that sell ‘products’ or low value ‘service’ items (garages, florists, masseurs, etc). Or is it a network which is stable and established – in which case you can get to know the same people over time (which can work better for ‘service’ businesses or high value items).

Consider which time of day suits you / your business / your personal commitments better, and look for networks that operate at that time.

A typical structured network meeting would be 2 hours long, would start with informal networking followed by breakfast or lunch, where the network leader would facilitate each person to deliver a 2 minute ‘this is me’ speech to the whole room, or facilitate the tables to have those discussions within themselves.

Never dismiss anyone sitting next to you, or at your table, because networking is not about grabbing as many business cards as possible and dismissing those who are not your target audience. It is about building relationships. The person sitting next to you may have a client who is the perfect client for you. Their brother might be the MD of a business you want to speak to. They may have gone to school with the client you have been trying to get into for months.

Networking Skills

Effective networking is the process of developing long-term, mutually beneficial relationships. It will improve your reputation and your business. You can do many things to ensure that your networking is successful. These things can be broken down into…

  • Preparation
  • Presentation
  • Follow-up

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In the next blog, we’ll continue with the topic: Networking Skills.

Your Business Network, Part 2 – Why Network?

In this multi part blog, one of our founders, Robert Newman, analyses the best ways to grow your business network with exerts from his book –  ‘Your Business Network – How to build and grow your network’.

This week, we discuss why it’s critical for your business to network regularly.

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“Networking is an essential part of
building wealth.”
Armstrong Williams

We’re all busy. Some people don’t see the value in using precious time to network when it doesn’t seem to result in immediate benefits for them. If that is true for you, it may be time to hone your networking skills.

Nothing is better than networking. Networking is about making connections, the best connections in the shortest amount of time possible. Business networking allows you to make connections with people from different industries and different walks of life. It allows you to share information and experiences.

Businesses and other organizations use networking successfully to get recommendations and referrals, and to build relationships.

People will do business with you or buy products from you because they have come to know, like, and trust you. Networking is probably the best way possible to build and nurture these relationships.

A great feature of networking is that it saves so much time in creating and building these relationships. It gives you a means to share information, find new clients, help others, and get the help that you need all at the same time. And while you’re doing these things, you’re building your reputation and your credibility at the same time.

Easy Access to Information

We all have expertise in different areas. No one knows everything involved in running a business.

Networking allows you to connect with people you know and already trust who can give you the information you need.

Think about how much time this saves you. You don’t have to start from scratch doing the research yourself on the Internet, in the library, etc. You know that if you reach out to someone in your network, that person will know the answer or be able to refer you to someone else who does.

And, remember, this works so well because it’s a two‐way street. Those people will remember you when they need some answers.

Giving Help to Others

We all like to help other people when we can. When you can give help to others, it not only boosts your network, it boosts your self‐esteem. There are things that come easy to you because you’ve done them so often. It is easy for you to share that knowledge with other people so that it helps them at very little cost to you.

Getting Help from Others

The opposite is just as true. It is a natural tendency for someone that you’ve helped to want to help you in return. The more you help others, the more help will be available to you when you need it. For instance, one person may be good at taxes, while another person is good at building websites. Most businessmen want and need some skill in both areas, so it’s a great trade‐off. Sometimes, you want someone else to bounce information off. There will likely be other people in your network who work in your area. They will probably have some experience or know someone who has experience and can help you.

Finding New Customers

We all need business, and that means new customers and clients. But, especially when we’re starting out, we don’t have a lot of money for marketing or advertising.

It’s been said that every one of us knows 250 other people. It’s very likely that out of all the people your network members know, some of them could benefit from your services and products. And, of course, you will do the same for them.

Don’t you feel better when somebody you know recommends someone to you ‐ say, a plumber or a house painter? That feeling is true for everyone. If you are referred by someone, the door to the next client is much more easily opened.

Here’s something that might surprise you ‐ 80% more business is generated by referrals than by cold calls.

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In the next blog, we’ll discuss What exactly the correct type of Networking is and which one is right for your business.

Your Business Network, Part 1 – An Introduction to Networking

In this multi part blog, one of our founders, Robert Newman, analyses the best ways to grow your business network with exerts from his book –  ‘Your Business Network – How to build and grow your network’.

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Part 1 ‐ Introduction

“It’s all about people. It’s about
networking and being nice to people and
not burning any bridges. Your book is
going to impress, but in the end it is people
that are going to hire you.”
Mike Davidson

These days, a lot of people are much more comfortable networking online then they are face‐to‐face. If you’re one of these people, this blog will help you. Many people, even experienced and successful business people and entrepreneurs, are fearful of face‐to‐face social interactions. This blog will help you to see that networking events are just events and people at these events are just like you.

We will demystify the unknowns of face‐to‐face networking and, for those of you who already network; we will give you some practical strategies that will improve your networking results.

You will see that networking is actually a simple process in
four steps:

1. You go to an event.

2. You meet some people and get to know them.

3. You follow‐up with them and help them out with something.

4. You follow up again and see how things are going.

On their side, it’s very likely that the people you meet will do the same for you. You and your networking contacts share similar interests that brought you to the event in the first place, and each one of you has some business needs you would like some help with. It’s a fair exchange.

Of course, there’s networking, and then there’s networking.

Without a plan, networking can be ineffective and a waste of time. When done correctly, networking is a powerful way to have your needs met and to improve your business.

In this book you’ll learn to take networking from haphazard to targeted and planned by you.

If you’re not convinced yet, think about this:

In this age of information overwhelm, if you avoid networking, you will certainly miss out on all kinds of information and assistance that you don’t have time to investigate but that can seriously impact the success of your business!

Besides, networking is fun. We’ll take a look in more depth in the next blog.