Business networking for CEO 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 CEO 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 CEO 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.
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.
When Henrik Balmer became the production manager and a board member of a newly bought-out cosmetics firm, improving his network was the last thing on his mind. The main problem he faced was time: Where would he find the hours to guide his team through a major upgrade of the production process and then think about strategic issues like expanding the business? The only way he could carve out time and still get home to his family at a decent hour was to lock himself—literally—in his office. Meanwhile, there were day-to-day issues to resolve, like a recurring conflict with his sales director over custom orders that compromised production efficiency.
Networking, which Henrik defined as the unpleasant task of trading favors with strangers, was a luxury he could not afford. But when a new acquisition was presented at a board meeting without his input, he abruptly realized he was out of the loop—not just inside the company, but outside, too—at a moment when his future in the company was at stake.
Henrik’s case is not unusual. Over the past two years, we have been following a cohort of 30 managers making their way through what we call the leadership transition, an inflection point in their careers that challenges them to rethink both themselves and their roles. In the process, we’ve found that networking—creating a fabric of personal contacts who will provide support, feedback, insight, resources, and information—is simultaneously one of the most self-evident and one of the most dreaded developmental challenges that aspiring leaders must address.
Their discomfort is understandable. Typically, managers rise through the ranks by dint of a strong command of the technical elements of their jobs and a nose-to-the-grindstone focus on accomplishing their teams’ objectives. When challenged to move beyond their functional specialties and address strategic issues facing the overall business, many managers do not immediately grasp that this will involve relational—not analytical—tasks. Nor do they easily understand that exchanges and interactions with a diverse array of current and potential stakeholders are not distractions from their “real work” but are actually at the heart of their new leadership roles.
Like Henrik (whose identity we’ve disguised, along with all the other managers we describe here), a majority of the managers we work with say that they find networking insincere or manipulative—at best, an elegant way of using people. Not surprisingly, for every manager who instinctively constructs and maintains a useful network, we see several who struggle to overcome this innate resistance. Yet the alternative to networking is to fail—either in reaching for a leadership position or in succeeding at it.
Watching our emerging leaders approach this daunting task, we discovered that three distinct but interdependent forms of networking—operational, personal, and strategic—played a vital role in their transitions. The first helped them manage current internal responsibilities, the second boosted their personal development, and the third opened their eyes to new business directions and the stakeholders they would need to enlist. While our managers differed in how well they pursued operational and personal networking, we discovered that almost all of them underutilized strategic networking. In this article, we describe key features of each networking form (summarized in the exhibit “The Three Forms of Networking”) and, using our managers’ experiences, explain how a three-pronged networking strategy can become part and parcel of a new leader’s development plan.
Do not expect to receive benefits right away. Do volunteering work for network groups to stay visible and give back. As a responsible CEO 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 CEO 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.