In a survey conducted by Business Network SW, the organization found that 87% of businesses partake in some form of networking. The reasons why these individuals felt networking was important varies, but the top three reasons building relationships, looking for new opportunities and business development. Whatever the reason behind choosing to network with other business owners, being around like-minded individuals can help bring about new ideas, offer different ways to implement processes and even result in a few collaborations or new business.
Where to Network
Finding the time and opportunity to network with other businesses can be a challenge. Conferences are one place where you can come together with people learning about a topic you’re all interested in. For example, at local user group meetings or a conference such as the Mile High Tech Con which will run July 24-26. This is a great opportunity not only to learn more about BI, but to connect with other business professionals.
Social media is another good place to connect with others. Participate in blogs, join a group on Facebook or follow complimentary businesses on Twitter.
How to Network
The business world is made up of people with all different types of personalities. While some are extroverts and find it easy to strike up a conversation with someone new, others are introverts and may find it more difficult to exchange information. One thing that can help both types of personalities is having a prepared couple of sentences that explains who you are and what your company does. While you will want to give it your own personal spin, here is a simple formula you can use.
I am (fill in your name here), the (your role in the company) from (your company). We make/produce/offer (product or service). + Something truly unique.
Having this statement in mind ahead of time will help you avoid a lot of awkwardness. Hopefully the conversation will flow naturally from there. If not, there are always the throw back topics.
- Where are you from?
- What are your hobbies?
- Do you have a family?
- Do you like to travel? Have you been anywhere recently?
The key is to listen to what the other person is saying and make a connection on a personal level. They will remember you far longer than if you spend the entire time talking about yourself.
Other Tips to Make Your Networking Successful
Once you’ve made a connection, be sure to exchange business cards. Take a minute to jot down a few notes on the back of the card about the conversation you just had with this person. Does he have a Yorkie that he adores? Do you know the dog’s name? Does he like to travel and just returned from Italy? This is important, because when you get home, you’re going to contact each of the people you made a connection with. You’ll want to send them a personal email or letter.
The letter should read something like this:
I enjoyed meeting you at the Pass Summit last week. Your Yorkie Samantha sounds like quite a character. I hope she enjoyed the dog toy you brought her home from Italy.
I was thinking about our two companies and how we are similar and realized we might be able to work together on ________.
I would love to set up a time for a conference call so we can discuss this idea further.
Again, it was good to meet you.
With this type of connection, you’ll be more likely to gain a trusted business ally who will work with you for years to come.
Networking gives you an opportunity to meet people who don’t normally run in your social or business circles. This in turn brings in fresh ideas and additional contacts you might not otherwise have had. For example, Jack and Jane may decide to endorse one another’s products to their current clients as they are not in competition with one another. Networking has a way of snowballing. You meet one new person, who introduces you to another and so on. It is an excellent way to grow your business and build your professional reputation.
I had the pleasure and opportunity to meet Don Gabor several years back at a Pass Summit in Seattle. Don is a master at the art of starting conversations and networking. Visit his site at http://www.dongabor.com/ to learn more about him and several of his resources.