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Hate networking? You’re not alone…

I’ve met many people who hate it with reasons from the fear of, to not understanding it, to finding it simply plain boring. Whatever your reasons for hating it chances are you’ll need to get over it. Whether that’s getting over fear or boredom of attending events, sorting out your LinkedIn profile and social networks or … the list goes on. More on social networks here

It’s likely you’ll find networking is an essential element in your career progression and certainly your business development. It’s all about how you think about it, how you look at it and only then, how you do it.

Love Networking? You’re not alone…

It’s a huge industry. There’s more groups than you can wave a stick at and without a huge amount of effort you could find yourself the opportunities to be having networking breakfasts, lunches and dinners not to mention beers afterwards (other beverages are available!). Oh, and don’t forget you could always try your hand at “Sweat-working”!*

Seriously, you can spend a huge amount of time, and indeed money, on networking activity and without some thought behind it waste a lot of both.

Alternative ways to network . . . get imaginative!

If peddling furiously on an exercise bike, whilst checking your emails and introducing yourself to the person on the bike next to you works for you . . . why not?

*Sweat-working = networking while you exercise.

I would have said this was one that most certainly wasn’t for me, but I changed my mind about that … you can read more here

Networking can happen anywhere so start thinking about what your vision is for your business (or your career), make a plan, get some strategy behind your ‘networking’ and work out the steps to achieve what you want to achieve.

Are you looking for more customers?
Are you looking for specific suppliers?
Do you need information?
Do you need to expand your team?
Do you …

Start asking yourself some questions. The answers could be as individual as you are and chances are they could be similar to many other peoples. It all depends on your circumstances, your sector and your aspirations. Need some help with this? Let’s Talk

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Sweat-working is just one example of unique ways to network and, whilst it might not be your cup of tea, it shows the importance of networking in the business community and finding innovative ways to make contacts.

One thing that remains key in this technological age when we are plugged in to so many devices and various social media platforms is the ability to cultivate personal relationships. This is as important as ever and there are so many reasons why, it’s not simply an excuse for a few drinks and the odd free (and often not free) canapé! Whether it’s your networking time or your networking pound (or both) you need to make it count and that starts with you!

My video, above, will give you an introduction to some basics.

You can build knowledge through networking and share your expertise with others. You only know what you know, and you can expand on this and really learn from others. It’s not only knowledge that you can gain from networking. Think about this for a moment. How much do you spend on marketing every year? Through networking you can get people talking about you and your business in a positive way, potentially for much less money.

You will find various stats for how much business comes from word of mouth and for many businesses this is where the largest proportion of their new business comes from. Having those positive encounters with people can get the word out and bring new business in more effectively than a costly marketing campaign.

A Few Things To Think About …

Remember that you may only meet a certain amount of people at a networking event but the reach can often be far greater. You should never underestimate the people you meet at a networking event and never dismiss people if you feel they aren’t the right people to meet – you don’t know who they know. A contact goes deeper than the business card you’ve been handed.

If you’re thinking of sending your teams to networking events, you should think about who you are planning to send. The temptation may be to send your sales teams as it’s likely they’ll be blessed with ‘the gift of the gab’. They absolutely love to natter and meet new people and they know how to present your product. But this might not always be the best option. The danger here is sales + sales = everyone is selling. No-one is listening. If I was running an SME I’d send a portfolio of people – think about sending the finance director or IT manager. They can listen and understand and potentially share best practices and benchmark against other businesses.

Don’t forget internal networking. This is so often overlooked. You can read more of my thoughts on this here.

Networking benefits people from numerous sectors and I’ve noticed generally that entrepreneurs are notoriously good at it – they have to be, it can be a lonely place working alone. I have learnt a lot running my own business and that includes the power of networking. It’s been an essential element for me as I’m sure it will be for you.

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