The Importance of Business Networking
When you’re looking for a job, having connections makes the process much easier. Given two candidates with the same qualifications, the hiring manager is more likely to choose the one that comes with a recommendation from a colleague. A sparkling testimonial is a powerful thing.
This phenomenon also holds true in the business world. Making connections can open lots of doors that may have otherwise been slammed in your face. Let’s take a look at some of the things networking can do for you.
Finding New Customers
One of the most obvious advantages of business networking is that it can help us find new customers. Building a rapport with others who may need what you have to offer can help build your customer base. If you needed a product or service, wouldn’t you prefer to go to someone you know and trust if that were an option?
Even those who have no need for what we have to offer can bring us business. They have their own network of contacts, and there’s a good probability that they know someone who could use your goods or services. Even if they do not, they might meet someone some day who does, and when that time comes, they will know who to recommend.
Forming Joint Ventures
Those who serve your target market in a different capacity than you can help you find new customers. But you may also be able to help one another in a different way: by combining your efforts into a joint venture.
A good joint venture can bring far better results than two individual campaigns. You can share the costs and work with the other party, cutting your investments of both time and money in half. And the rewards can be great. Both parties can reach portions of their target market that they may not have reached otherwise, and that could easily translate to more sales.
Learning from One Another
There’s more to networking than finding ways to directly make money. Getting to know fellow entrepreneurs can be a learning experience. You might stumble upon just the piece of advice you’ve been looking for, or you may even find a mentor.
But remember, it’s a two-way street. If you want to benefit from the knowledge of those who are more experienced than you, you need to do your part to help others who can benefit from your knowledge. You reap what you sow.
How Does Networking Work?
“When we seek for connection, we restore the world to wholeness. Our seemingly separate lives become meaningful as we discover how truly necessary we are to each other.”
It’s not hard to understand why networking is a good thing. But to the uninitiated, the very idea of it can be confusing and intimidating. You might find yourself asking questions like:
• Where do I go to meet fellow businesspeople?
• What do I say when I meet them?
• How can I make sure they remember me?
• What if I make a bad impression?
Even the most socially adept have been known to get butterflies in their stomachs when it comes to business networking. It’s natural. But don’t let it stop you from making connections that could help you achieve more.
Meeting fellow businesspeople is easy enough. You can find them at functions hosted by your local Chamber of Commerce or small business organization, and at trade shows. Online, there are lots of forums and networking groups consisting of businessmen and women that you can become a part of.
Knowing what to say when you meet someone you would like to network with may be a little more difficult. Small talk is okay, but it won’t get you very far. You need to hit them with something that makes you stand out from the crowd.
This is where an elevator speech comes in handy.
Your elevator speech is a short yet powerful description of what you do. The question is bound to come up, and if you merely answer with your profession, you’ve lost an important opportunity. But if you have crafted an attention-grabbing elevator speech, you can seize the opportunity to highlight the benefits of your business.
As the name suggests, your elevator speech should be short enough that you could make it during an elevator ride. But you can use it in any networking situation. It shouldn’t be a sales pitch, but it should be engaging and make the listener eager to learn more about who you are and what you do.
A good elevator speech will help you make a good first impression. If either party is pressed for time, offering a business card will keep you fresh on the listener’s mind and ensure that he knows how to contact you later. If not, your elevator speech can pave the way for a more detailed discussion.
For some, networking comes naturally. For others, it takes a little more thought and preparation. But practice makes perfect, and the more you practice, the more your network will grow.
Networking Is About Give and Take
When networking, it is crucial to present yourself well. But it’s equally important to remember that it’s not all about you.
Listen to what others have to say. You might find that they offer something that you need. You might realize that you have something unique to offer them. You might know someone to whom you could refer them. Or you might see an opportunity for the two of you to help each other.
That’s the beauty of networking. It’s not like advertising, in which you lay out the benefits of your product or service and the audience listens passively. It’s interactive.
And when a connection is made, everyone involved wins.
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