Networking is a great tool for growing sales, particularly if your business works with other businesses. Networking with other business owners and managers can happen face-to-face or through social media. The mediums might be different, but many principles of networking are relevant to both. Here are some tips for making the most out of your networking opportunities.
1. Put more effort into networking
Networking is about building relationships, and this takes time and effort. It often takes more than one catch-up or encounter to start building a relationship. This is the same with online networking through social media — while the relationships may be formed faster, the relationship starts taking form after multiple contacts with a person.
Tip: Allocate some time for networking each month either online or offline.
2. Adopt a ‘how can I help’, rather than a ‘what can I get’ viewpoint
It’s true that networking can generate business, but the business doesn’t come out of the act of networking or the particular contacts made. Instead, it comes from the relationships and trust that is developed through these contacts.
It’s a networking disaster to just try and flog your products or services. No one likes to be sold to in a friendship-building arena. Successful businesses owners take the approach of becoming a business friend and look for ways to help someone out. With this attitude, relationships develop much quicker.
It also helps you stand out from others who are just trying to push a business card or product on you. If you’re not convinced, think about all the people who have retweeted something, commented on a post or liked your page — they stand out to you!
Giving, rather than focusing on what’s in it for you, is a principle that works both online and offline. The only difference is that there are many more easy ways to do something nice for someone online, and you can do lots of them in a short amount of time, which increases your chance of developing relationships quicker.
Tip: Think about the little things that you notice when they are done for you, and do them for others.
3. Be your word
How many times have you heard someone say ‘let’s catch up for coffee’ and nothing comes of it? To be successful in networking, you need to stand out from the crowd and build trust. There is no better way to establish credibility than to actually do what you say you are going to do. This applies online as well as offline. If you say you are going to ring someone, or send through a link or like their Facebook page, then do it! Even better, let them know that you’ve done it. A little email, text or instant message saying ‘I’ve just subscribed to your newsletter’ lets a person know that you did what you say you were going to do.
Tip: Don’t over commit yourself. It’s better to under promise and over deliver.
4. Show enthusiasm and friendliness
In face-to-face networking, the people who do well are the positive people that make others feel good in their presence. Having a cheerful and optimistic outlook is a good start. Complimenting others and approaching people in a friendly manner is critical. A smile, eye contact and positive body language all play a role in face-to-face networking, whereas in the online networking space, language, tone and word choice play a key role.
Is the way you write friendly and accessible? Do you make positive comments, or are you critical? We want to do business with people we like, so it’s important to act in a way that showcases you in the best light.
Tip: Network when you are in a good mood. Try to avoid networking when you are feeling tired or grumpy.
5. Have patience
Like a good wine, networking rewards can take time. Think how long it can take to build non-business relationships and friendships! It’s worth the effort though, as many relationships can last a lifetime and bring in a lot of business.