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.
How To Make an Effective Management Conference
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.
I consider myself to be fairly competent at networking. Even so, I still got intimidated when I thought about how to network with senior executives at my company. I probably experienced some of the same self-doubt you have gone through:
Why would they want to build a relationship with me? I don’t work with them day to day
They are probably too busy to connect with me.
I don’t want to come across like I’m “kissing up.”
How do I ask for a meeting?
In the last few months, I learned five great tips on networking with senior executives. They have helped me authentically connect with three senior folks at my company. Conversations with them have helped build my work brand and made me appreciate how much I can learn from each of them. Here are the five tips. I hope they can help you in your career.
Tip 1: Less is more – identify which senior executives you want to network with. Look at all the senior folks in your company and choose, at most, three executives you want to network with. Focusing on building deep relationships with a few of them is better than trying to get to know all of them. Here are the criteria I used to decide who to network with.
Recommended by others you trust – Not all executives are created equal. Many people in leadership positions still only care about themselves. It’s important to find out about their reputations and then figure out which ones are genuinely interested in developing people.
Relevance to your work – Have you worked with his or her teams? It would make more logical sense to reach out for a meet and greet if there is some level of connection between your work and their sphere of influence
Gut feeling from past interactions – If you have had any direct interactions with a senior executive, then trust your gut instinct. Some will seem approachable and easy to talk to and some will seem aloof and guarded. One of the relationships I built with an executive was purely based on our informal chats in the hallway about our personal lives, travels, etc. She is now an invaluable mentor for my career.
Tip 2: Take action – Be proactive and reach out for a first meeting. This is by far the hardest tip to follow for most people. Many of us have these ideas for a long time but never actually do anything about it. Just do it! Only when you practice, will you get better at this skill. You may not always do it right, but that’s still better than doing nothing.
Start with the executive you have the most personal contact with – You will have the best chance of success with someone you already know. Not only will this interaction build your confidence, but that executive can coach you on how to approach others along with who else you should approach.
Make it a one-on-one meeting – While face to face is preferred, it is not always possible. A phone call can be just as effective. Be flexible with timing – Offer options and leave it for the executive to choose the time that works for them. Be persistent but respectful – It’s not only possible that it may take several tries before a meeting can happen, but executives are busy and may cancel on you. Don’t take any of it personally.
Tip 3: Ask for Coaching or Offer to Help – This addressed my fear about how to come across to a senior executive. The most common mistake people make in approaching executives is asking something like the following: “How do I get to senior management, like you?”. It may seem like you are complimenting the executive, but you actually come across as self serving and burdensome. Instead, you should try either of the following:
Ask for coaching and advice: This will help your career, and it naturally compliments the leader you are reaching out to. Offer to help: Askg something like, “How can I be more effective in my role as a partner of your team?” or “What can I do to improve how we do xyz?”. Neither approach is focused on climbing the career ladder. Instead, they are about reaching out to learn and become more effective at your job.
Tip 4: Prepare to Listen and Ask how to Stay Connected – If you successfully get a first meeting, you will most likely get 15 to 30 minutes to talk to him/her. Come to the meeting with, at most, 1 or 2 questions and prepare to listen. This is not about you talking their ear off about your accomplishments or perspectives. This is time to listen to their guidance and perspective. Listen and have them clarify what they are sharing with you.
Assuming the meeting goes well, finish by asking if it’s okay to reach out in a few months to reconnect. You will be able to tell from their response whether or not they want to continue the relationship.
Tip 5: Be Thankful and Follow Up – Building relationships with anyone will take more than one interaction. Just like any networking effort, it’s important to be thankful and follow up
Once you’ve had your first meeting, be sure to send a simple ‘thank you’ email or note.
More importantly, if an executive provided advice for you to follow – like ‘you should also talk to these two people on my team’ or ‘this is how you can approach the work next time’ – once you have done those things, let them know. This will help you build your reputation and relationship with them.
Last but not least, schedule a second meeting. We would like to heard your comments.
Are you networking with senior executives today? Why or why not? Have these tips helped? Share your comments and questions below.
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.