Networking: Some benefits & top tips to make you a networking pro!

Networking: Some benefits & Top Tips to make you a networking pro!

I have always been a huge advocate of business networking, having been taught of its benefits many moons ago when I was working for a small business owner as a PA.  And I’m so glad she did drum it into me because it is the first thing I did to push myself and my business out there when I started up in early 2014, and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am now if it hadn’t been for networking.

Most of my business comes as a direct or indirect result of business networking.  It is such a valuable resource for most (if not all) businesses, and it is absolutely worth stepping out of your comfort zone to give it a go because the benefits it reaps are numerous.

So, I’m going to outline the benefits of networking below and also how to make the best of it with some top tips…

  • Networking can lead to some great working relationships and even friendships – I have some great friends now that have come from networking.  So, you don’t just get customers out of networking; you can also find suppliers, collaborators, business partners, ideas, and opportunities.  You can learn new skills, learn about new tools and resources, and so much more! 

So, be sure to go with an open mind and be prepared for anything!

  • Networking isn’t something that you should just attend once or twice and expect to get immediate results.  People like to get to know you as a person; they want to trust the person they may be doing business with in the future.  They may not require your services at present, but now they have your card and have got to know you better, they will remember you.  They will also recall you when talking to other people and recommend you; there is no better endorsement than a recommendation!  So don’t expect an instant result, some of my business has appeared nearly six years after I met that person at networking (yes, really), and it was well worth the wait. 
  • Don’t just go to a networking event to sell; you are there to build relationships first. There will also be a variety of businesses represented there, and some that could help you.  For example, you may meet someone that would make a good supplier or trainer, both for you and your business, or they may be someone you could endorse to your customers.  Don’t be afraid to ask for people’s business cards so that you can recommend them to others or pop them in your own CRM.  People will appreciate that, and you will be remembered.
  • If you attend regularly, you may get invited to do a presentation on your business; this way, you get longer than your usual sixty seconds to showcase what you do. 
  • No matter what the price of your networking group, I have always found that when you find the right networking group and you put in the work, it pays for itself.
  • You get out what you put in!  I’ve heard people complain they’ve joined and not got any business, but it turns out they didn’t attend regularly, they didn’t follow up after meetings, and when they did attend, they didn’t really get involved in the conversations – my philosophy is turn up, follow up, be yourself and don’t be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone.  When you do, you will start to reap the rewards.
  • You don’t have to physically attend a networking group if that isn’t your cup of tea!  Networking can take place online.  You can find opportunities to network online; for example, Pink Link Ladies have some of their meetings on Zoom and some in-person.
  • Networking can open doors to many other opportunities.  As you are meeting such a diverse range of businesses, the opportunities are endless.  Since I started networking, I have been invited to talk on the radio about my business, had articles in the newspaper, been interviewed on TV, been invited to speak at conferences and events, and found business partners to collaborate on projects with. I’ve even been nominated for awards.
  • Consistency is key.  If you only go to one or two events and never return, people will soon forget you, especially if somebody else comes along who offers something similar to you.  You need to stay fresh in people’s minds.
  • Don’t be worried if there is someone else there who does what you do.  I am a strong advocate of collaboration, not competition.  People will do business with people they relate to; different people have different specialities and areas of expertise.  For example, in one of my networking groups, I am one of four virtual assistants, but we have different areas of expertise, and in fact, we now regularly collaborate on projects together.  We have all gained different clients from that group who relate to the different personality types we have, so it works really well.
  • Plan your sixty-second pitch in advance.  You will be invited to say a little bit about who you are and what you do.  It doesn’t have to be perfect but do make sure you get across to others what you do; try and keep it snappy and memorable – there are lots of good resources out there that help you to refine your pitch to make it work for you.
  • When you are chatting with people, give them your full attention.  There’s nothing worse than chatting to someone who is constantly looking around the room for someone better to talk to – you don’t want people remembering you for all the wrong reasons.
  • Lastly, networking can be fun!  Not only do you get to meet lots of great people, grow your business, make friends and listen to interesting speakers and some networking groups hold other events too.  I have attended masterclasses and conferences run by my networking group.  Some have their own online communities too, where you can share posts, events, blogs and other perks.  I have had meals out, been to a spa evening, attended parties, visited many different business premises, and I’ve even been canoeing on Ullswater and gone llama trekking!!!

One final top tip: (I have to thank Joanne Hawkins from Be a Standout VA for this one) If you are really nervous and struggle to start a conversation, stand by the coffee table, wait for somebody to come along and start with something like “Hi, I love your bag/earrings/shoes/tie/dress…” it’s a great way to get a conversation going.

Let us know how you get on, and please feel free to share your top networking tips below.

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