IT Business Forum

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.

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Networking may not be enjoyable to some people but we can always make it fun and profitable for businesses. The following are just some of my tips to share with you how you can get the most out of your next networking session:

1. Know the location -It helps to know where the event is going to be held beforehand. It is both frustrating and embarrassing to appear in the wrong place and keep calling the host who is busy talking to his / her guest.

2. Always arrive early - If you can follow this, you will make it as a top networker in no time. I always respect people who turn up not only on time, but well before the event starts. Arriving early is not only for show, you can have a great opportunity by connecting with the host and guest speakers (if any).

3. Bring more name cards -Bringing more name cards can make a difference at times. In a professional business event, it is embarrassing to tell people that you run out of name cards. If the event is expecting 100 people, bring 150 name cards. You will need them for something you will not expect - lucky draws, subscriptions and unexpected turnouts etc.

4. Get to know the host - Most networking events are hosted by certain organization and associations, part of the reason to arrive early is also to have time to talk to the host and tell them what you do (if this is the first meetup). As a host, we respect people who turn up early. This is also an excellent time asking the host if they know of someone who can help or work hand in hand with your business.

5. Find out who will be attending the event - This works if you have a way to know who will be attending the event. If the event is displayed via Facebook or Meetup.com, then you will be able to know who may be attending (via the guest list). After you know who will be attending, spend some time going through their websites and prepare some small talk topic when you meet them. You may even find a common interest between you and the person that will be attending the event =)

6. Prepare your 10 seconds 'what you do' pitch - To be honest, no one is interested in what you do in most networking events. If you fail to impress people during the initial 10 seconds of interaction, you will have to work harder to make yourself memorable. One tip I have here is to stress on the benefit when people ask 'What you do for a living?'. If you are an Accountant, don't reply saying that you are an accountant, just mention that you help businesses to cut down as much as 20% (or some statistics that is realistic) of their costs. An Entrepreneur with common sense will be eager to hear more and ask you how they can do that!

7. It is better to overdress - If you can't figure out the dress code for the event, just dress formally. It won't hurt by overdressing in most events. Appearing in formal dress code also signifies that you respect the host and VIPs of the event. Overdress will also make you memorable for most people especially the host.

8. Advertising Zone? - It is also important to ask the organizer if there is any way to share the benefits that your business will bring to the attendees on the event. Some business networking events will have some sort of 'Advertising Zone' that allows you to place your marketing materials for exposure. Some even have business booth.

9. Identifying the top 3 trades you need - Most businesses cannot survive on their own without forming alliances with leads flowing from one to another. For example, Corporate Services Provider works pretty well with Web Designers, IT Support Companies and Accountants. You need to place the top 3 trades that you are looking for on top of your mind at all times. Doing so will make it easier for you to connect with someone who is in the trade that you are looking for on any networking event.

10. Find out and participate in the event theme - Some monthly or Bi-monthly events do organize networking themes at times. For example, an event may request everyone to turn up with red-white theme in the month of Aug (Singapore National Day). Have fun and participate in the theme for the event. Participating in the theme also show that you are giving support to the host or organizer.

Sounds easy? Try them out in your next networking opportunity!

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.