Business networking for Information Technology 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 Information Technology 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 Information Technology 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.
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.
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.
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:
2. Marketing Strategy
3. Training / Operations
4. Finance and
Let us look at each of these in the context of Network Marketing.
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!
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!
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.
Do not expect to receive benefits right away. Do volunteering work for network groups to stay visible and give back. As a responsible Information Technology 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 Information Technology 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.