Business Networking – Old School Or New Social Norm?
In today’s age of social networks, is traditional business “networking” an archaic relic of the old-school baby boomers? I say “No”!
Depending on the market, B2B networking can be one of the first and enduring ways business owners and business developers grow their business. This growth is even with the change in social norms over the past several years.
In my early years of business I knew I needed to network to put myself in front of people and give language to my business. Frankly, at the time, the business was probably more of an idea than a real business. As a result I was overwhelmed, and I’d go so far as to say, terrified of networking! Add to that fears around being sold a product I didn’t want or being caught in the corner with “that person”, “networking” as I knew it, was a serious put-off.
Knowing I had to face my networking fears, got out there and started to press the flesh. I now feel very privileged to have found a networking group whose members have become my clients, confidants and vendors. These exceptional people operate on the overarching ideals of providing immense value to those they meet in the course of business. They know what they give will return to them even though it may take time as opposed to a “tit for tat” scenario. This creates a genuine desire to help others build their business based on the law of reciprocity:
What you give will come back to you at some time, in some way, without the need to keep score.
I was recently speaking with a veteran businessman who, I happened to meet at a networking function. He told me that although he had been in business for 17 years, as his business changed, the channels he used for connecting with others in the business world also changed. This was the reason he started networking again after not being involved in this type of marketing for many years.
The most interesting thing about his message was that he wasn’t networking with the primary aim of “selling”. Rather, his goal was to meet like-minded individuals who could offer the support and guidance he needed to navigate his business in changing times. As a result of picking up his networking efforts again, he has greater clarity about his business and where to focus his efforts. He has also honed his marketing by focusing on his ideal target market and ensuring that they hold similar values to him and his business. All these changes he made from meeting people through the art of networking.
As a business coach, these ideas are what I bring ask my clients to focus on as well. Knowing that a person who wasn’t new to business found insights via the formally feared action of “networking” excites me. So I ask you this question:
If networking isn’t about “selling” your product or service, and is actually about making connections in the ever-changing environment of new social norms, then is this a way for us to re-connect in a traditional and yet more social way?
Are thinking that networking isn’t for you? Are you like me, afraid of what the rules are? Does the idea of putting yourself in a room of strangers makes you feel queezy? Fear not, here are my top tips to think about for building awesome networks, finding partners and making friends through networking.
7 of my best networking tips:
- Network with the intention of making friends.
We all want to do business with people we trust. Therefore use your networking efforts to find others with the same values and work ethic as you have both in life and business. Then, make friends – old school style.
- Look for long-term friendships.
DON’T ask for marriage on the first date! In our fast-paced world it can be tempting to rush the sale. Ask questions. Ask about the person, their business, the challenges or problems that they are experiencing. Get to know them if there isn’t an opportunity now, it doesn’t mean that there won’t be an opportunity in the future. Consider networking a long-term opportunity rather than a quick and dirty sale. You never know where a conversation may lead, or what future implications it may have for your business. Always be thinking about long-term business opportunities.
- Ask questions
This is exactly what “that person” at the networking event who corners you and just tries to sell, sell, sell does wrong. They don’t ask questions, they fail to find out what the problem is before trying to sell a solution. Without the context of understanding how a product or service solves the problem, how can anyone genuinely and authentically have long term business relationships? Genuinely try to find out what makes your new contact, and their business, tick, to see if you’re a match.
- Be genuine and authentic
This is huge in business! This is an important point I learned from talking to my veteran business friend. He was unafraid of putting his hand up and saying, “I need help.” Be your authentic self. People like us more if they know they are getting the real version of us.
- Make value your priority.
Go to networking events with the intention of giving value to others. When you give value, it finds its way back to you. Whether you believe in energy exchanges or just good business models, this works! If you can help, teach, share information, give value or even provide a referral, it builds the framework of reciprocity and long term business opportunities.
- Remember tip two.
You can only give referrals if you understand what your new friend is looking for in a client. So ASK QUESTIONS.
- Ask this fundamental question:
“Are you are curious about how I’ve assisted businesses like yours overcome that same issue? Should we organise a time to catch up again?” So many people forget to investigate the opportunity with this simple, yet fundamental question.
So, friends, get out there. Get into the new / old social network at the next face-to-face networking event and see how opportunities may present themselves.
What to do next:
If you would like further information on how I’ve built my business through networking, please get in touch.