7 Top Tips for Business Networking
Seven simple steps that will help you establish useful business connections and make networking work for your small company
Most members of today’s entrepreneurial world are so busy managing essential tasks that it can seem like we never have the time to step away from the immediacy of our screens or day-to-day running.
But failing to stop, look up and get out to interact with people could mean that you ultimately miss out on new connections and perspectives that will benefit your business. Networking is key to gaining this perspective and therefore should be integrated into your working life. After all, meeting face-to-face creates lasting impressions, and can introduce many new business leads.
Here are a few tips to help you make the most of networking opportunities:
Go beyond the surface, learn about the entrepreneur and not just the business
As an entrepreneur you will have to attend numerous networking events and you will meet people who have zero interest in the people in which they are speaking to – looking instead at what they can get out of the company or interaction. And though for a time-stretched entrepreneurs this may seem like the only viable way to get the most out of networking it can actually mean rarely learning anything significant about the people attending these events.
Focusing your interest on the entrepreneur behind the businesses, and not just the company, can often be the best way to understand the underlying firm, its plans and needs – and could be more beneficial to you as an entrepreneur and your business’ development. Experienced networkers are not predatory – they listen carefully to information given over canapés, and engage in real conversation.
Invest in business relationships
Most of us stay in contact with the friends we make early in life. Likewise, many of us retain touch with colleagues we worked with in previous jobs. That is because we made real emotional connections with them.
Although the majority of people you meet in life are no longer in your primary circle, that is no reason not to consider them useful, embedded within a wider network that it itself teeming with opportunities. Many business owners have met their company’s future investors, clients or partners at networking events so it’s worthwhile to go about your entire profession forging connections that will remain strong and useful throughout your career.
Network away from the screen
LinkedIn, twitter and other social media networks have had a massive part to play in the developing the current business networking environment, however you can’t effectively network solely from your desk.
Face-to-face meeting are still paramount in establishing long-lasting relationships. Once a connection is forged digitally, pick the right moment to take the initiative, suggesting going to lunch or coffee or heading out to an interesting industry event together. Taking a new professional relationship offline as early as possible is the single best way to set yourself apart from the constant flow of internet noise, solidifying virtual connections in the real world.
Be a strategic business networker
It’s important to set attainable goals that measure the success of each piece of your business. Networking events can fuel these broad business goals – so measure networking against ambitions, allocating time to attend the events that will help you get to the next stage of development or with a current problem in your business.
With an abundance of events available it can be difficult to choose which to attend but coordinating your networking alongside your business plan will help you to remain focused and ensure that you get valuable results.
Practice your elevator pitch
You may not be appearing on Dragon’s Den, but an elevator pitch is the perfect tool to deploy in a networking environment, where fellow attendees like investors, need to know what you do in as short a time as possible. Vocalise your company’s proposition and your role in that business in as succinctly as possible, allowing your new contacts to quickly understand the basics and to use conversation with you for follow-ups.
Convert cards in to contacts
If you emerge from an event with several business cards, congratulations. However, whilst this may feel like a victory in the short-term, later on a growing pile of unstructured cards will cause information headaches.
Business cards blight the workplace because they are not uniform and not searchable. Until they become so, deriving real value from them is hard. Immediately enter the core content in to your contacts database or CRM system, where they will be much more valuable. Furthermore try to follow up with particularly useful or interesting contacts with an email or call the next day or so, this will help them to remember you and make it easier to contact them in the future.
Make networking a routine
Networking does not have to wait until peers announce their latest breakfast club or the next industry conference comes around. You can build the same outreach value into your schedule.
To help contact-building become a habit, reach out to one person whose work you find interesting. Don’t ask for anything – just reach out with an email or a social media message that shows your respect or interest in their work. Building soft connections that bring people into your business circle can often be more effective than a formal or hard sell.
For more information and tips on successful business networking check out Startups.co.uk’s networking section here.
This article was written by Ricardo Parreira, the CEO of PHC Software and PHCFX PHC Software and PHCFX.