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Business networking for IT is one of the most effective marketing and prospecting method you can use to grow your business. But if done incorrectly, it can be harmful to your business.

Business networking is a lot more than giving out business cards. It is about building trust. For IT the networking is a lot more than meeting people. It is about connecting with the right people.

Business networking is a lot more than collecting phone numbers. It is about staying in touch, about listening, addressing needs and looking for opportunities all at the same time.

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It is how as a IT we approach relevant business networking sessions that makes it work for us. Networking is about being authentic and genuine, building relationships and trust, and helping others. Although increased sales is the end goal, don’t participate in business networking to sell.

Build relationships and sales will follow naturally. People have to trust you before they’ll do business with you or refer you. Relationship capital is an immensely valuable part of business success. Put your energy, intention and attention on business networking.

Importance Of Networking In Business

Are you starting a new business? Or maybe you already have a small business? Whichever is the case you will no doubt have made business plan, forecast your cash flow and probably frightened yourself as to where all your money has gone.

In order to generate new business it's essential to market your business and certainly this can be a very costly business. Advertising is seriously expensive and in my mind it works best for those already with an established brand because it's about recognition and repetition, so unless you're already in the league of Coca Cola it's probably not a good solution.

Business networking is not about a closed shop where everyone gives each other work, it's much more powerful than that. It's fundamentally about the act referring business to people that you have grown to know, like and trust, and for them to do the same for you. Understanding how to give a quality referral is an art itself and something that I cannot cover today so for the time being let's just consider the benefits of business networking.

It is not a well known fact but 70% of new business that your company gets is through word of mouth. Networking allows you to formally explain what your business is about and as fellow networking business people get to know you so you will naturally start to win new sales leads because people like to pass business to people that they know.

Simply attending a networking event will raise your profile especially if you network on a regular basis. Remember my earlier point about advertising; recognition and repetition, attending a regular networking event achieves this.

Not only do you have the opportunity to present your business, you also get to meet with a lot of business people from other walks of life that will inevitably be able to help solve some of your problems. And you will be able to do the same, it's all part of the relationship building process and at the end of the day it's this relationship that counts when recommending someone's services.

You'll also get to know an awful lot of people that will be able to help you when you have a problem. Have you ever picked up the yellow pages and looked for a particular service? How do you choose? It really is hit and miss. By getting to know reliable contacts who can provide you with what you want and who can be trusted is worth so much in terms of your time and money.

Likewise, if there's no one in your network who can help, the chances are that someone knows someone who can and will recommend them. Suddenly you find that your business is moving forward at a much more rapid pace. Your confidence will soar!

Sharing experiences is also part of the game. Just talking to people about their experiences, their goals and their problems will stimulate lots of new ideas and open your mind to new opportunities. All of a sudden you have a completely new approach to doing something or even a new business venture that you may never have otherwise thought of.

Last but not least it's amazing how much satisfaction we all get from helping others.

There are many business networking techniques to learn in order to make the most of this style of marketing but once you've understood the basics, give it a little time and I'm sure that you'll soon understand the true power and benefits of networking.

Identify which networking events you should attend. Pick groups that’ll help you achieve your goals. Find venues that make sense for your business. When you register for an event, schedule it like a meeting.
Determine how often you should be networking. How many times in a week, month, or quarter? Visit as many groups as possible.

Attend events with a plan and always try to learn something new. Prepare yourself for the event. Develop open-ended questions to ignite a conversation. Bring business cards but don’t give your business card to everyone you meet. Give cards to those who ask you for it. Try to sit with strangers. Don’t forget to mingle.

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Keep track of people you meet. Keep in touch with them and deepen your emotional connection. Establish a mutual beneficial relationship with other business people and potential clients/ customers. Meet with the group members individually so you get to know them better and try to build quality connections. Consider other group members as resources. focus on the group; listen and think about how you can help them. Focus on giving. Build trust within the group.

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The importance of selecting the right executive search firm should never be underestimated. Choose a wrong one and your organization may suffer costly delays in filling in a crucial position or be saddled with a new hire who turns out to be unsuitable for the position. To better gauge the fitness of prospective search firms, make sure you answer these questions.

What executive job search experience do you have?

Asking this question will give you a good idea on whether the prospective search firm has established expertise in the areas which are critical to the successful completion of your search. Certainly, the more examples they can share, the better. You need to have full confidence in an executive search firm's ability to attract high quality candidates who have the requisite qualifications and skill set for your specific need. What are your search methodologies, and how can you apply them to my requirements? Discussions with prospective search firms should center on how they intend to go about filling your job requirements. Urge them to be as specific as possible in explaining their strategies in identifying and attracting candidates and to what extent they can offer recruitment guidance for your organization and the candidates.

How will my organization interface with your firm?

It will also be helpful to obtain a detailed account of the processes and mechanics of your partnership. This should include a clear designation of roles and responsibilities, appointment of a dedicated project or recruitment manager, setting up of project milestones, submission of progress reports and schedule of meetings and consultation. You will want an executive search firm that is willing to communicate with you and address the search in the manner which is most beneficial for you.

What is the expected time line?

Corollary to a detailed scope of responsibilities, is an assurance of sticking to a time line that works for both parties. The time-critical aspects of the recruitment activities should balance out with your schedule and that of the firm's. Good executive search firms will readily offer an honest assessment of the time necessary to conduct a thorough candidate search.

How involved will you be in candidate negotiations?

Search firms vary in willingness and expertise in liaising between the hiring organization and a candidate in the final negotiation stages. It's a tricky area to navigate, and you'll want a search firm that can represent and communicate the best interests of both your company and the candidate you wish to hire.

What are your fees?

You need to understand how the executive search firm will bill for its services. A retainer-based approach is often ideal as the expenses can be spread out over the course of the project, although some firms are known to accommodate charging a flat fee for certain projects. Billable items should be scrutinized and should amount to a compelling package of high value services.

A Few Things to Remember

The key thing to remember when evaluating prospective search firms is to be as clear as possible in explaining your requirements for the position, your own expectations and the kind of involvement you're capable of contributing to the process. Tailoring each question according to your organization's specific needs will also help you obtain the answers you need and from there make a well-informed decision.

Do not expect to receive benefits right away. Do volunteering work for network groups to stay visible and give back. As a responsible IT you must show up regularly and on time, show others how you deal with business meetings and associates. Give quality referrals and leads. If someone gives you a referral, follow up on it in a timely manner. Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. Take a referral seriously.

Don’t spam on social networks. Use the platforms designed for IT to build relationships and expand your network.

Limit self-promotion. Don’t sell. Build relationships. Be as helpful as you can. Share relevant information with others as people love to learn new things. Participate in discussions. Let others know you’re real. Be approachable. Treat your online connections just as valuable as your offline connections.