What is business networking? Since starting out in business on my own in 2011, I really wondered how to get business in the door. Direct advertising campaigns, websites or even networking?
I thought networking would be a good start. So I joined a referral network and visited quite a few of the local networking events periodically.
I understood that networking was not a place for a direct selling, you had to build relationships for it to actually get you work. When speaking to the members of this group about getting business I was actually met with a surprising comment amongst some of its members. They were not here just to get business? I didn’t really get it.
Eventually I decided to try something new and moved on from the group, after generating around £80K of work over 3.5 years for its members. There I sat day in day out in front of my computer working away. Weeks went by and months went by. I had basically turned my back on networking convincing myself that I was not going to get any business from doing it.
Then just last week I was literally dragged out of my office to attend a meeting I had never been to before. I did not want to go but just thought I should.
The meeting was really good, met and mixed with people I knew and people I did not know. It felt good, I had a laugh, I listened to some stories and told some stories.
You see being a business owner can be a lonely affair. You have no one to sound off against. No one to vent frustration at. No one to get help from, unless you pay them. Spending long hours on your own, twiddling with your website, doing your own accounts, worrying where the next client is going to come from. Worrying that you have taken on too much work.
I then got it! After all these years of wanting business I had a kind of epiphany.
For me networking is not about getting work. Getting work is but a by-product of networking. Networking is a support mechanism. You will speak to people that have had the same issues you are going through. You can help people that are struggling. You can lend your ear, that all so many of us don’t think we need.
So don’t go to networking events with your order book in hand, or end a conversation with “well I’m going to see who else is here I’ve got loads of people to meet” (you would be as well saying you can’t benefit me so sod off so I can find my next sale) Go be yourself, share your business wisdom and vent if you so wish. You never know someone may like you and then your relationship will be cemented.
- Tip 1 Keep your body language open so that people can come and join in.
- Tip 2 Smile. It is the easiest way to engage a conversation.
- Tip 3 Part with some of your knowledge to see if just a little advice is enough to help.
- Tip 4 Be remembered, for the right reasons.
- Tip 5 Don’t sell, because guess what? No one at the event is wanting to buy.