As a business owner the quest for creditable ways to increase business is an ongoing necessity. One tried and true process is networking. Of late, networking has expanded to include social networking websites. They and many other online resources that did not exist a few years ago have become a huge platform for increasing business. However, there is still much to be said for offline face-to-face networking. It is still a fundamental way to meet new people, thereby playing a key role in growing your business.
So how can you use networking to build your business? Treat your networking efforts as another part of doing business. Be organized and hold yourself accountable for actual results. Determine the amount of new contacts you'd like to make, new qualified leads, vendors, affiliates, etc. Figure out a reasonable number per month and stick to your goals.
Coming up with a strategy will help ensure your success. Review your list and establish the areas in which these individuals can be found. Consider joining professional organizations that colleges join such as BNI. This will assist you in obtaining new business acquaints. Remember those currently in your field may have projects that they like you to collaborate on, or work they can not complete themselves. The potential for leads that they'll share with you and the possibility of you creating a joint venture are all plausible outcomes of your union. Take into account that this will be a two-way relationship, when or if you find yourself in a position to initiate the offering of additional work or a joint-project, you should.
In addition to professional organizations you'll want to consider personal ones. Those working in every industry require all types of work to be performed and are members of fitness clubs, book clubs, Facebook, Twitter, and of course LinkedIn. The idea with networking is not that you only find those who are in the same field or “obvious” customer types, but that you reach out to people in general. Why? They may become customers or refer your business when asked for a recommendation.
We typically do business with those we like, and becoming liked often in personal settings. So those invites you may have turned down in the past, you'll need to start accepting. If you get invited to holiday parties, birthday bashes, and especially actual networking events, be sure to accept the invitations! Once you're at an event or party becoming a wallflower is not an option. Mingle with the hosts and allow them to introduce you to others that think you'd be interested in meeting, after-all they know you and your business. Then venture out on your own, have conversations, find out what the occupations and personal interests are of others who are also in attendance.
Do not become pushy and allow yourself to enjoy the environment, the food and the people.
Often professionals do not get to take advantage of the power of networking because they constantly push their business while in a non-business setting. Listen to people as they're speaking to you, do not just focus on your pitch. Networking in a private setting is an opportunity for natural chemistry. Some will like you and want to know more about you and what you do – which is the perfect lead into your business.
While others will not, you do not have to waste your time, but always be polite and pleasant because that person you did not think there was chemistry with may be the very one who calls you for a huge account with their company. When someone in the office says “does anyone know someone who …” and it's your field, the acquaintenance you made may suddenly remember you from the birthday party or New Year's bash or networking event and yes, they will respond with “I know someone. ” That is the power of networking.
The role you establish in organizations you join can be powerful also. You can quickly become known as reliable, with brilliant ideas, etc. When you're seen in leadership roles you automatically become the person others go to when they need assistance. Others may not need you but decide to speak to you about your service or products and determine that they'd like to hire you strictly due to their confidence in your abilities. They can decide that a top-notch professional like you knows what they need. You can end up with new customers by demonstrating your leadership skills in an organization and you'll be helping others in the process.
Keep up with when you start your networking efforts. Maintain a database or spreadsheet to enter the names and information of all of the new contacts you meet. If you see the names growing you're on the right path, if they're increasing substantially but business is not, you may have to put more effort into selling your business or service. Pay attention to the crowds, there are always natural sales people, negotiators, those who are persuasive and the popular people that others follow. A conversation with any of them could give you some guidance on how to sell or they may be willing to do some sales for you.
If you can not afford staff consider bartering, which is another great way to build your business via networking. Bartering with those you meet in networking situations may lead to deals you can not imagine. Keep in mind that barter is also an opportunity for you to showcase your business. Be professional and know that referrals from the person you're bartering with may be just around the corner. It only takes one great lead or referral for your business to grow immensely.
Be certain to follow-up with those you meet and consider throwing an event of your own once your numbers of new acquaints have increased. You can create a “How To” that you send out as an email blast or post on your professional Facebook page and became known as a master within your field. Most importantly, getting out and meeting others will create a relaxed energy for them to discuss business with you and increase their comfort zone in being able to refer you to others.
Do unto others as you hope they will do unto you. Refer those whom you meet when the need arises among those you may know, especially when it's not within your field of specialty. Sending business to others in areas that you do not specialize in will cause them to be thankful and remember to do the same for you. Joining the local entrepreneurs in your area, reaching out to the chamber of commerce, small business organizations, etc, are all great places to start. Do not underestimate what they can offer, some may have free courses on networking or free networking events. It only takes one referral to potentially turn your entire business into an incredible success!
So do not take anyone for granted and remember that everyone you meet is a potential client or connection to one.