Business networking for Business Development 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 Business Development 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.
Business Consulting Management 101
It is how as a Business Development 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.
Frustrated because your governing board members lack zeal for the cause and won't raise money?If you're the CEO or a board member, your nonprofit organization needs you to galvanize that board. It's board development time. But...What if certain extenuating circumstances suggest a direct approach to the governing board is not a good idea at this time? Try advisory councils.Advisory councils are a great way to re-charge the juices in a nonprofit organization's leadership and advancement experience. Here are a few reasons why:Recruits individuals who may not (yet) qualify for governing board membership. Expands opportunities for attracting new talent, perspective, and participation to the organization, people who are honored by the appointment and eager to contribute. Attracts additional leadership to the organization without threatening current governing board members, i.e. you need not be forced to invite one to leave in order to invite another to join. And, if there's a problem on the governing board, you can by-pass it by choosing to wage that battle another day. Engages leaders who want to serve but do not want to assume fiscal responsibility (governing board only) for the nonprofit organization. Interests potential members who are often over-committed but still want to be involved, so they like the typical council's limited number of meetings per year. Helps focus members, thus raising probabilities of success, via "single-purpose" councils. If your council exists to "give or get," members who accept an appointment have already made a commitment to be financially involved. Offers an opportunity to increase diversity among the organization's influentials. Acts as a farm team for developing leadership for the governing board and other organizational opportunities. Represents the organization or one of its departments, matching council members' professional expertise or interests in a best fit. There are more reasons why advisory councils can be your leadership or advancement panacea. Add your own experiences to the list.Perhaps your nonprofit organization reserves to the governing board the authority to appoint councils and/or members. This can be appropriate, depending upon your organization's history and needs. But you may want to expedite the creation of advisory councils and the recruitment/appointment of members by developing a brief advisory council blueprint and then request the board pass a resolution empowering the CEO to develop advisory councils and enlist members later as the organization may require. You can also use the blueprint as a job description for orienting new council members.Here's an example of what an advisory council blueprint might entail:Mission: To advise the CEO on matters pertaining to leadership in the organization and the community.Counsel: Expertise, insight, strategic thinking, innovative ideas, networking, trend analysis, encouragement, vision casting, leadership, advocacy, mentoring, support, community opportunities and contributions.Membership: Members will be appointed for their leadership, expertise, wisdom, and contacts, which they can use to build the effectiveness and reputation of the organization. They shall be people of good character whose lives and work will by association be a credit to each other and the organization. Members will be appointed by the CEO.Terms: Members will serve without terms (or you can develop terms) for as long as the CEO and the council member consider the service mutually beneficial.Members should attend meetings faithfully and agree to support the organization financially on an annual or project basis.Meetings: Councils will typically convene four times per year in meetings called by the CEO. Special meetings may be called from time to time.Authority: Councils serve in an advisory capacity with the consent of the Board of Directors. Advisory council recommendations will have no legal or binding authority upon the organization but will likely influence the course of the organization's development.One last thought you should make a cardinal rule: The worst thing you can do is appoint advisory council members and then not use (converse, convene, listen, engage, etc.) them. Putting people on a council that goes nowhere wastes their time and disrespects their talent. Fool them once and you won't fool them twice.Advisory councils are a wonderfully flexible and potentially high-impact tool. Skillfully employed by a CEO or board, advisory councils can act like a chlorine shock to the organization's leadership pool. They can help make things clear so you can once again see where you're going and how you're going to get there.
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.
Benefits Of Business Networking
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.
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 Business Development 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 Business Development 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.