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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.

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In my experience of 20 years in consulting and industry, a typical successful Network Marketing guy would have the mindset of the owner of a mid-cap global company. Since you don't find many such people living next door, peoples difficulty in comprehending what they do - and this business - is natural. But if you look at any business, you will agree, here's what business needs:

1. Product
2. Marketing Strategy
3. Training / Operations
4. Finance and
5. People

Let us look at each of these in the context of Network Marketing.

#1 Product

The product for network marketers is wide open. Anything can flow in the network. To give an example, in a telecom network, once your cables are laid, you can flow data, voice, video, text... whatever, through them. Similarly, a network marketer is actually in the business of laying the cables... comprised of consumers consuming good quality products. The focus is to maintain the robustness of the cable... the product per se, is immaterial. Several thousand international brands have partnered with Quixtar for instance, to tap into the strength of the networks Quixtar business owners have built. Numerous companies have partnered online through affiliate-ships for the same reason. So as a network marketer you can be sure you will always have a great product... or in fact various product lines... which would then be the least of your worries.

#2 Marketing Strategy

Since this is my pet subject I can write for hours on it but I won't. Because the strategy for success in network marketing is to reduce individual work and increase System work. By allowing a System to work every Network Marketer can leverage more from the team than by charting their own strategies. Robert Kiyosaki recommends Network Marketing so passionately because the marketing strategy is set in place by a System. True network marketers will search for a system for success and abide by it... and in doing so would change their everything... from mindset to finances to relationships!

#3 Training / Operations

Those of you who have engaged consultants in your business (and I mean like plumbers and baby-sitters in the business of running a house) know exactly how expensive this can be. But in Network Marketing you get Free operating advise from extremely successful business owners! Because they have a vested interest in your success. Every action of yours... the cost-benefit... the effectiveness... the impact... is well known in advance and you can follow footsteps to operate like the best.

This I believe is the most undervalued bonus of Network Marketing and for me personally, this alone has been worth a fortune. It is this advise that builds the mindset for leadership in all walks of life. And once that develops everything else is a cakewalk!

#4 Finance

For any business to provide larger turnover and profit, the costs of operation increase. Right? Not so in Network Marketing. Here, though the business expands exponentially, the expenses remain at the same level (usually quite nominal and risk-free). Consequently this is the only business where you can be absolutely in control of cash-flow planning and growth. Which is a severe stress-point in any other business.

Secondly, since network marketing is a B-quadrant business (ref Robert Kiyosaki), the money comes in much after the work is done. It's like in farming, where you plant the seeds in one season and harvest the next season. This ruffles up a lot of people who are used to money-for-effort like in a job or sales (no guarantees about that now though. And this is why one must be open to training, to develop the mindset of the rich!

#5 People

This is one area where traditional business and Network Marketing differ rather significantly. In a traditional business you 'pay' people to follow instructions. In Network Marketing you 'inspire' people to do that.

You yourself do what needs to be done and teach others how to duplicate the simplicity of that. This is why network marketers are basically in search of open-minded students. Just like the Rotary Club is in search of socially inclined business-persons and the Art-of-Living Community is in search of people willing to be navigated to a higher consciousness.

Net net, the business of Network Marketing is boundless and in 75 years of its presence on the planet we have barely scratched its surface. The business model is in search of an army of volunteers with an abundance mindset and a higher consciousness to awaken society and herald revolutionary change. Historically, such movements take a century on the make... and so the time for the Network Marketing movement has come!

PS: Business is business and network marketing - for its wonderful nature - is business 2.0... but network marketing as an instrument to uplift world consciousness is Business 2.1 and you can take it there! Contact me to know how.

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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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!

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.