Business networking for Consultant 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 Consultant 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 Consultant 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.
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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 Consultant 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 Consultant 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.