This is a question that I ask everyone who comes on our WMB Networking Skills workshop and we get so many different answers. It has become very apparent over the course of the last 8 years, that many people do not really, truly, understand what networking is.
So, I find it interesting that many people sign up and join networking groups and organisations, yet they haven’t understood what they’ve really signed up for. Many business people spend hundreds of pounds, even thousands of pounds a year, to network as a part of their marketing and new business strategy. Nothing wrong with that, or is there?
Here are some of the things that people say, when I ask, What is Networking?
‘Great way to find more clients’ ‘Chance to meet other local businesses’ ‘helps me find both suppliers and clients’ ‘new business opportunities’ ‘it’s enjoyable and I get some great ideas for my business’ ‘My company think this is a good way for us to attract new business and that is my area of responsibility’
Now let’s be honest here. You are all very busy, juggling lots of things every day, and your time is precious, your resources limited, and you need to ensure that you’re working smart here, BUT going networking with the intention to get business is NOT the way forward.
Don’t get me wrong, I know you are thinking to yourself “why else would I be going?”
Let me help you.
Let’s examine the dictionary definition for networking, which is;
‘to cultivate people who can be helpful to one professionally’
I love this statement. It’s simple, and says exactly what networking is. Now think what to cultivate means. If you're a farmer, it is the process of planting, nurturing, and protecting something until it has reached it's maturity; to grow or develop things by looking after them; to prepare and work on (land) in order to raise crops.
I 've observed and studied both brilliant networkers and some real shockers too, and concluded that there really is an art and skill to smart networking. If you do it well, with integrity, authentically, and learn how to ask the right questions, this will help.
But there’s more to it than that. You must also schedule to follow up after every networking meeting, have a clear message and communicate your business with simple clarity so you grab attention and people can understand and ‘get’ what you do.
As well, you need to consider your mindset and intention in the first place, know when and how to approach people, and be patient.
Remember, you want to build relationships where people LIKE, KNOW and TRUST you. This is critical as only then, and I repeat, only then, when someone likes, knows and trusts you, will you start to reap the rewards.
And there’s more that you will need to do, in order to get even better results. Sometimes, you will come across people who do not know how to facilitate a referral, and so they don’t bother. Not everyone is good at this part of the process, and you can spend a lot of time doing everything else brilliantly, but if you're not actually taking action, and picking up the phone to make introductions for someone, then the chances are you are not getting great results.
IF, and there is a BIG IF, you do everything well, then the end result of successful networking, is new business opportunities, new clients, collaboration with new business partners, mutually beneficial business partnerships, and the bottom line, revenue.
PHEW! We can now finally admit that we all want to reach the end result, which is more business clients, but we must not even THINK about this when networking, because it will happen without you even trying if you follow the correct process and just think about cultivating.
Finally, do remember this: ‘Networking is to cultivate people who can be helpful to one professionally’
For further information about how to network, BOOK NOW to attend the next 'Networking Skills' workshop run by Philippa.