It’s the dawn of a new year and I expect, for many of you reading this, a raft of new resolutions on how you’re going to grow your business in 2017.
If, like me, you’re reflecting on the accomplishments and hurdles of the last year, then you’re bound to hit upon something that you’d like to do more actively this year. For me, it’s the same as always, quite simply meeting more people and making meaningful and credible connections.
As an executive search agency and a small business, I can testify that personal contact is key to business success. Consequently, ‘business networking’ (I don’t particularly like the phrase but it is what it is!) has become an invaluable way to forge connections; something Sir Richard Branson believes “is a great asset” in business and is highly reminiscent of the adage ‘people buy people’.
If talking to a room full of strangers sounds like a daunting experience, then read on to learn more about why networking can be useful for your business or career, and our top tips for ensuring it’s a successful experience.
When you meet someone through networking the lead (or opportunity) that follows is usually high quality – you’ve already met the person so following up is easier and you’re more likely to deal with people who are genuinely interested in you and your business.
Top tip: Make sure you have plenty of business cards with you, and keep them to hand. But don’t be a card thruster… swapping contact details with people who you want to stay connected with is useful – shoving your business card into someone’s hand as soon as they say hello is annoying!
Networking and opportunities go hand-in-hand! And some may come from less obvious routes. It’s a good idea to remain open-minded; you never know when a connection may prove useful.
Top tip: Be prepared before your event and research who might be there then search them out.
You’ve heard it before: ‘It’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know’. And it’s especially true in business. Now, you need to know what you’re talking about and be credible in your market but WHO you know is of critical importance. Good connections will prove very useful.
Top tip: If someone in your own network matches a business you encounter at an event, don’t hesitate to share their details as it will only strengthen your relationship.
Learn from others
Having people from different parts of your industry to talk to gives you the opportunity to share ideas as well as tap into advice and expertise that you may otherwise, not be able to get hold of. Getting their insight will give you a balanced view and wider perspective.
Top tip: Honesty really is the best policy. Small talk is okay but don’t give an opinion if you don’t know what you are talking about. You are networking to gain good advice from others and build trustworthy connections, so only share your experiences where it is relevant and true.
Raise your profile
Being visible and getting noticed is a big benefit of networking. There’s no point in going to a one-off event and not following up after it. Building a network takes time and effort – so make sure you regularly attend business and social events that will help to get your face known in your market. You are also more likely to get more leads and referrals as you will be the one that pops into their head when they need what you offer.
Top tip: There are lots of networking events out there so don’t be afraid to be selective. It’s a good idea to only get involved with opportunities that align with your business goals and vision.
The people that you spend time with and talk to influence who you are and what you do, so it is important to surround yourself with positive, results driven people that help you to grow and thrive as a business owner. Networking is great for this as industry leaders and progressive thinkers often enjoy this scene.
Top tip: Find out if the person you are talking with is someone that you can work with or who knows the people that you want to know! Building a good network is about knowing what topics to talk about, as well as knowing who to speak with. Small talk can be informative; make sure you’ve brought yourself up to date with relevant news and market goings on, so that you’re not guessing the conversation on the day.
By regularly networking, and pushing yourself to talk to people you don’t know, you will get better at it and increase your confidence. This is really important as a business owner, because growing your business and making connections is dependent upon being confident in yourself and having the ability to talk to people about it.
Top tip: Worried about speaking to strangers? Guaranteed: you’re not the only person in the room feeling nervous. Be brave, don’t just chat to the people you already know. If you establish that the person you are speaking with isn’t right for you, then be polite, thank them for their time and say that you are moving on to speak to others.
Give something back!
Being able to help other people is very satisfying and benefits not just you personally but also the market in which you operate – positive people create positive environments which breed successful businesses. You will always meet someone who shares a similar problem or issue to you, and being able to help them see a solution and move their business forward is rewarding.
And one final top tip: be timely. Don’t let a new connection drift away because you weren’t ready to follow up on an initial chat.
Martin Mackenzie is director of executive search company Mackenzie England. Based in central Scotland, serving the whole of the UK and working internationally, Martin and business partner Pia pride themselves in being distinctly different; they explore all options to help their clients identify and attract exceptional talent. They will always be straightforward and honest, providing you with independent advice and guidance. If you’d like to find out more please get in touch.
Share this Post: