Networking is a key business activity for owner/managers, to connect with people like you who may be able to connect you with your target or potential clients or supply you with a good service or service provider. Below we list 20+ tips on Networking and 30+ tips on Reciprocity, plus 10+ benefits of business Networks.
It is a cost effective word of mouth marketing exercise to discover or develop sales opportunities or contacts.
The best, easiest, low cost option is your local Chamber of Commerce – join and attend functions, meetings, etc to get to know the other members and get introductions to your target market. Talk to the Chamber Manager, ask for advice, tell him/her what you are looking to do.
Furthermore, if you join a structured Business Network like Women in Business or BNI or any local network such as DBN Donegal Business Network, they are based on giving and receiving referrals and introductions. These monthly or weekly meetings are there to get people together and have them focus on helping each other. The main meeting just allows you meet people at a fairly superficial level, who they are, what they do, where they do it and who they want as customers.
Between the main meetings, members can also arrange 1 to 1 face-to-face meetings to get to know each other better. This is where you really get to know each other and find out how you can help each other.
Get to know, like and trust fellow members in order to be able to spot an opportunity or refer them. Tell fellow members who you want to meet and why – why should they trust you with their personal connections?
Tell them or show them what you do and why you are good at it.
Your business network of contacts is often referred to your business net worth, as it is a route to market and a valuable marketing tool, to get to the decision makers in your target client company.
Business Networking Tips
- Pick the right network – one that suits your business goals.
- Be on time – get relaxed with and in the room and be there to greet others as if you are a host and do smile 🙂
- Dress comfortably – smart & clean, no odours, no tobacco or alcohol smells
- Mingle – Talk to other attendees, even if, especially if, you are uncomfortable starting off
- Breathe – it may be obvious, but remember to take deep breaths, it is easy to forget
- Ask questions – Pay attention and LISTEN.
- Silence – if the conversation stops, ask more questions of the person, be prepared with some general questions, kike why did you choose your profession, what gives you most satisfaction, how does Networking help etc
- Sales – Do not be Salesy, be helpful, ask how you can help exactly
- Triggers – look out for opportunities to connect people, even in the room – make it a game, a challenge, try to bring business to someone at the event or connect some people
- Be real – forget all the sales book baloney, be yourself always, (unless you are normally a pain)
- Refer business – If you can get business for someone, they will want to get business for you.
- 60 Seconds or Elevator pitch. If you get the chance, say who you are, what do you do or offer, who do you want to meet and why should someone recommend you
- Stand out – Infuse some energy, be memorable, fun, educational, clear and concise
- Be specific – name the person you want to meet and say why
- Shotgun – Do not run around giving away business cards, thinking that this is networking – leave the cards at home
- Prepare – plan who you want to talk to at any Networking event and have a goal for that meeting – can you get an Attendees List in advance or read the sign in book
- Be positive – Add positivity to the energy and NEVER criticise others
- Farm NOT Hunt – Look to bring benefit, sow seed like a Farmer, rather than be an out and out Hunter
- Follow up – Follow up quickly to arrange meetings or referrals, send the info you promised
- Evaluate – Review how each meeting went, did you achieve what you set out to do ? How could you have done better?
- Personal Net worth – Do you stay connected with your existing Network, clients, past clients, friends etc – This is a warm audience, so do stay connected
- GOOTO – Get out of the office, meet people, talk and spot opportunities
- Rejection – It is in your head, so dump it and work out what you did wrong – Be Better, Grow and enjoy the Challenge of getting from No to Lets Go
- Shy? – Use FORM as in ask questions about Family, Occupation, Recreation or Motivation, such as Are you here on your own? Why do you do? How do you spend your free time? Why are you here?
NetWORK – that 4 letter word is in there, maybe for a reason, you will have to WORK at being a successful Networker, rather than just turning up and expecting that people will hand you orders.
“All things being equal, people will deal with people they like. All things being unequal people will still deal with people they like”
Take a long term view to Networking, build your credibility, hone your presentation and help others to help you, as you deliver referrals and benefit to others.
Business Network Lists
For many people, it does not come naturally to look for business for others, when you are busy looking for business for yourself, but successful networkers know that they get business for themselves by getting business for others. Write up a short list of 10 people you can consider the “close network”, best friends, business partners and stay in touch weekly or preferably daily. Then have a list of 100 people you stay in touch with weekly, the “business network”, by email, tweet etc. Share some useful industry news or tips or details of interesting events or podcasts or books. In terms of your client database this might be 1000 contacts where you do not stay connected regularly, but perhaps add to an email list to send a Newsletter weekly, to stay in their mind when they might want your product or service.
Recommended Business Networking links:
Most of these networks will host or run events and have a guest speaker, so you can learn something new or get a few useful tips, as well as make a few good connections. Get on their email list for newsletters and event invitations and they will feed your networking calendar. Try attending one event a week. You can attend an event that is not related to your business sector, but may be related to a sector, in which you would like some new clients. If I want to deal with building companies, I might go to the Brighter Homes exhibition or Ideal Home Expo or a talk organised by the Construction Federation. Some of the main Industry Federations allow Associate Membership, which may be useful to you.
Asking for and getting referrals – Being specific ! Business to business tips.
Good networkers know the importance of being specific when networking – in a presentation at a networking group, in a 1 to 1 meeting or generally in open networking, being specific improves opportunities for referrals and business.
So let’s start by me telling you about Kenneth, who runs Premier Services, a Virtual PA business; he asked me the question that I hear so often from other networkers: ‘I know I should be specific, but how ?’
Kenneth primarily offers his Virtual PA and Office service to businesses – which makes him a Business to Business operator.
The first question I asked him was easy:
Question: ‘Who’s your best current client?’
This is a good place to start, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if we’re going for specific referral requests, we might as well go for similar businesses that are likely to be good to also have as clients (without looking for a competing business). Secondly, when it comes to actually speaking to the target business, it is really important to be able to provide some evidence of how you’ve helped a similar organisation – maybe have a Testimonial or get introduced by the initial Client.
Kenneth’s answer to this was a chiropractor, so immediately that leads us to the Health and Wellness sector. Then, I asked him whether another chiropractor would be good, or was there any other profession (within Health & Wellness) that would be good for him. He told me that a doctors’ surgery would be a good opportunity.
Then, I just had to keep asking questions:
Question ‘Where would you like this doctors’ surgery to be located?’ – Answer: Letterkenny
Question ‘Which doctors’ surgery in Letterkenny?’ – Answer: The Ballyraine Clinic in Letterkenny
Question ‘Who would you need to speak to at Castletown Clinic in Letterkenny ?’ – Answer: The Practice Manager
Question ‘Do you know the name of the Practice Manager at Castletown Clinic in Letterkenny? – A: I’ve no idea.
This often happens when asking these questions: we may not know the answer to all of them. However, it isn’t difficult to get the information we need – all it needs is some research – Google or LinkedIn will get you the answer 99% of the time. In this case, it didn’t take long to find out that the Practice Manager was a guy by the name of John Smith.
And with that – Kenneth had successfully managed to be specific. A good referral for Premier Services is John Smith, the Practice Manager of Castletown Clinic in Letterkenny.
Kenneth’s problem, in common with many other networkers, was just getting started – and here I want to reiterate the key point: the simplest way to do this is to think of your best current client, and consider what industry they’re in. Once within that industry, think of the type of business you would like to speak to. Then, you just have to ask yourself the questions.
Always ask for an action rather than a number, as in ask that a call be made or an email sent to introduce you.
Being Specific is Key ! Remember: People like to do business with people they know or know of.
Make a habit of telling customers when you do work for them that you will look for referrals from them once you have proven competence to them.
If a Customer compliments you, ask them if they know someone else who could benefit from your product /service. “I’m really glad that you’re pleased with my work. I’m always looking for referrals and wonder if you know anyone else who might be interested in my service”
At every customer meeting make a game out of looking for a Referral or Introduction to someone new – set a Target like one per day or one per meeting
At our Networking events, stay away from fellow Members and meet the new faces or ask fellow members for an introduction – again set a target of meeting say 3 or 4 new people.
Talk to members about their contact list, browse each others address book. See who a Member knows in LinkedIn
Remember to say Thank You !!
Being Specific is Key! So learn the best way for you to do it every week and use your 60 Seconds at Networking events to ask fellow members for help to get an introduction to a potential customer. Everybody is selling, so who do you want to sell to ? The more you ask the more you will get.
Concentrate within the group
I always encourage people to ask for names at the meetings, but remember to focus on the members in the room, ask them if you two could be referring more business to each other, ask how you can do it, talk until you both get better at helping each other. The room probably has enough people to give you all the business you need. Do more 121s, listen better, ask better questions, take notes, follow up.
Circle of Trust 100 – This is a tough one
Aim – To identify 5 or 10 potential Referral category sources, create a list of the likely good referral partner types and get to know 10 of each. For MeanIT it is 10 Graphic designers, 10 Accountants, 10 Printers, 10 Marketing Companies, 10 PR companies, 10 Sign Companies, 10 Business Coaches, 10 Financial Advisors, 10 Photographers and 10 Solicitors.
Get to know this 100 people and what sort of business they want, so that you can refer to them. If 100 is to many, try going for 50 or 25 or 10, but start somewhere
Stay in touch – make a point of reaching out with a referral or a useful piece of info at least once a month, preferably weekly.
Keep filling the Funnel with these people and ensure that you always have 10 in each category that are referring or trying to refer. Make no promises to each other to seek out referrals, just make a commitment to try to spot opportunities, which will happen.
30+ Ways to Network well by being a good Networker – Givers gain.
Now that you have the hang of the basics, helping others might take some thought and be inconvenient, but it pays off hugely! Helping others creates social capital which you can trade in later. It obeys the Law of Reciprocity.
Reciprocity: people feel and indebtedness that they will go to great lengths to repay. Giving and helping also makes you feel good and genuinely improves the life of others.
Here are 30+ examples of the ways you might give to others. Read and take action!
- Solve a problem Offer your time to brainstorm or be a sounding board.
- Make introductions Introduce and connect people to other good people.
- Pass them business Give a referral or a lead.
- Make them aware of a chance or opportunity Signpost someone to good stuff!
- Talk behind their back ! Say great things about them to others. It WILL get back to them.
- Do a chore for someone Wash a cup or empty the trash. It makes a difference.
- Pay somebody a compliment Choose the right words and the right time, be sincere.
- Give a gift Make it personal. Give it graciously.
- Offer someone secret access Show them your stuff, material or resources.
- Offer them discounts or concessions Any money off or great deals go down well.
- Give a reward Something extra. A coupon. A code.
- Invite someone to something The more special or exclusive, the better. Everyone loves a party but not everyone gets invited.
- Package up something ordinary. Even a golf ball can be made special with the right packaging! Anything in a box adds to the value AND the expectation!
- Send them a thank you card Thank them just for being them!
- Share their tweets Follow them on social media and share their updates when you can.
- Do a testimonial or recommendation. Linkedin is the perfect place for this.
- Give them feedback. Make it constructive and deliver with love. They’ll thank you for it.
- Donate something What can you give to their cause, club or charity?
- Point out spinach in their teeth They might not love you and initially it might be a bit embarrassing, but they’ll ultimately be glad you did.
- Stop to help Off the cuff or spontaneous offers of help work wonders!
- Bring them something from your trip A cold drink, coffee, a muffin, a souvenir. Out of the blue!
- Cover for them. Could be in working a bit longer, finishing off a job or even taking the blame for something.
- Offer to help. Simply ask ‘how can I help you?’ Even just offering to help is a great give.
- Show appreciation Tell them you love them, you get them, you like them. Often the more public the better.
- Take an interest Ask them ‘how are you?’ and really mean it!
- Teach someone something. If they express awe at something you’ve done or compliment you on a skill, offer to show them how to do it.
- Include people. If you’re going out with a bunch of friends, ask someone else along.
- Listen – A friendly ear and a sympathetic shoulder is one of the greatest gives.
- Share knowledge Good stuff you find or know can make a great give.
- Recognize people’s achievements I love what you did there. I like the way you did that.
- Find out what makes people tick What do they care about? What’s valuable to them?
- Buy something from them – Could be a raffle ticket, a box of cookies or something else they are selling. Becoming a ‘customer’ singles you out for special treatment!
- Like them. Like their Facebook page and remember to share some of their posts
- Connect. Use LinkedIn to make a solid connection and remember to personalise your invitation
- Promote – Keep their business cards or fliers in your office to publicise them
- Coffee – Book time for a coffee and a quick chat
- Thank them when they do something, by hand writing a Thank You card and sending it
Print off this list and have it close to remind you. Soon you will have done them all and will be in real ‘giving’ mode. And the goodwill, kudos, karma and social capital you will produce will benefit the people to whom you give and you too. Now get giving, and if you can activate the Law of Reciprocity, all the better!
Many of these 30+ tips, came from my friend Rob Brown over at http://networkingcoachingacademy.com/ who is an authority on Networking and a great speaker, well worth considering for events. Can you suggest any other tips ?
10+ Benefits of Network Groups
1. Get to know local business owners
2. Get to meet like minded people
3. Get introductions to other local businesses
4. Get referrals to potential clients
5. Collaborate with other people to deliver a project. For example a web designer could work with a photographer, videographer, content writer, graphic designer and digital marketer to deliver a website.
6. Learn from other members of the Network, from their experiences in business
7. Learn new skills from other members who are specialists in a particular art, such as Social Media or Photography
8. Make new friendships, people who understand your challenges and who want to help
9. Raise your profile in local business circles and benefit from the power of group marketing
10. Get lots of positive energy from people who like you have a passion or mission to succeed, which will increase your own confidence and feeling of well being
11. Share the costs of trade fair stands or advertising
12. Benefit from bulk buying services or products, such as phones, insurance, stationery, window cleaning
13. Get brilliant service from partners in your network who want to show you how great their products or service can be.