We live in a time where relationship marketing and high trust selling are the keys to business growth and success. The most effective way to become a relationship expert is to build your networking skills.
Networking is all about developing business contacts and relationships that enable you to grow your business base. It is also about increasing your knowledge and building your profile in your company, industry and community.
A good definition is “Networking is the art of building win-win and reciprocal relationships that help individuals and their companies as a whole to achieve their goals”.
Networking is a two-way process – it’s about giving as well as receiving. As you build up your network of contacts you may find yourself able to refer or recommend people or use their services yourself. You will be amazed at the business that you can gain through careful networking and word-of-mouth, and no marketing is more powerful than positive word-of-mouth.
My own personal experience of networking has been very positive and I make an effort to gain at least one worthwhile relationship from every networking opportunity I get. And once you make a sincere effort to connect you seem to attract more and more business. A good networker really does reap what they sow.
Successful business networkers report that 80% of their new business is achieved through effective networking and word-of-mouth referrals. Recruitment experts tell me that over 50% of new positions in businesses are successfully filled using powerful networking strategies.
So how do we improve our networking skills? Networking can only happen once you’ve created an impact, built rapport and trust, and connected with the right contacts. Networking is not about going to conferences, parties, events or dinners, collecting business cards and trying hard to make a sale.
A professional networker has an effective thirty second elevator speech ready describing what they do and is crystal clear about their USP (Unique Selling Proposition). If you get a chance to speak for a few minutes about who you are and what you do, know your USP’s and have a short statement that effectively communicates it. How comfortable are you with your elevator speech? Can you clearly list your USP’s?
A great networker consciously demonstrates:
1. That they like people – period!
2. That they spend time with people that they like.
3. That they are truly interested in the issues of others.
4. That they are willing to share useful information.
5. That they believe in friendship, trust and respect.
You don’t just want to network; you want to be a professional networker. A professional networker is someone who wants to develop a long-term relationship for mutual gain and who is prepared to work hard at that relationship. These contacts often become trusted friends and advisors.
Here are few good reasons for networking:
1. Opening new business and career opportunities
2. Gaining industry knowledge
3. A way to influence key people
4. A way of monitoring competitor activity
5. A great source of new ideas
6. A way of creating a stronger personal profile
7. A means of growing your business
8. Allowing you to share your experience
And here are a few key things to do:
1. Be clear on what your networking goals are.
2. Always have a big supply of business cards (you’ll be surprised how many people don’t). TIP – Are you using both sides of your business card to display valuable information? The reverse side on your business card is a great place to market.
3. Always greet the organisers, sponsors and host.
4. Always connect. Build rapport, trust and interest.
5. Find out about people by asking questions. Resist the temptation to simply talk about yourself and your business. Rather be interested, not interesting.
6. Never “sell”. Connect first; you will get your sales opportunities later.
7. Continuously improve your communication skills.
8. Reconnect with people that you have previously met.
9. Enjoy yourself and relax.
10. Follow up the people you meet with a brief email or letter.
Measure the success of your networking. How many new contacts made at networking events have ultimately led to more business? Which have proved to be the best events?
There you have it – become a professional networker and grow your profile, business and career opportunities. I hope that these tips, ideas and strategies assist you. Happy networking!
John Lloyd is a business growth strategist, award-winning marketer, speaker, trainer, columnist and author of the book Smart Thinking for Crazy Times.
Visit John at www.brandstorm.co.za and subscribe to his free inbox magazine.
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