The secret to great business networking
Many businesses find success in growing their company through networking. Being at events and meetings where your potential clients are hanging out is the holy grail of business development. Sometimes you have to focus on finding potential partners to create a networking relationship and expand your reach through them. Good networking partners take time to find and develop, but in the end the effort pays off. Some things to think about when prospecting for network partners include:
Define a good partner
Find partners that have the same or similar target market, but little or no overlapping products/services. These partners are a good complement to your solutions, since there is little risk of them taking a lead from you and selling a competitive product. In my case, we work with companies to help them manage issues and take advantage of opportunities in the areas of sales, marketing and operations. Good contacts for me are those that sell to the CEO, CFO, or business owner and provide services to support other areas of their business. These contacts could be in banking, law firms, accounting firms, financial/accounting consulting, HR consultants, or IT consulting firms. The focus is to develop a deep relationship, where we think of the other when one of our client's has an issue or opportunity they need help managing.
How many is too many?
To some, an extensive reach is the best way to make sure they are going to get leads into their target accounts. This can be true, but it can also be difficult to manage. Most referrals come from your core network. Develop a core part of your network that you connect with on a regular basis. The connection points can include a wide range of methods, but I try to stay in touch with my core network in person whenever possible. Meet for coffee, lunch, or pick up the telephone to see what is going on in their business and how you can help them. Always look to support your network contacts... pay it forward. This pay it forward approach is a sure way to have them remember you when the time is right. Your core network may only be 20-30 people, but these close relationships will develop and expand into their network over time.
What events to attend
Find events that are a good place to meet your target market or target networking partners. I like to mix it up. I am in a group that is comprised of primarily HR focused organizations, and while human resources department is typically not a good entry point for me with a client we did get included as a partner in a proposal recently. Business comes from a wide range of areas so we try to diversify our network with individuals described earlier in this article with those that provide us with a different view into an organization.
Find an event or an organization that makes networking fun or ties your networking to something you like to do. I am a member of a business golf networking group, The Corporate Tee Box ( www.corpteebox.com ), where we meet once per month to play golf at a private country club and spend 4 ½ hours getting to know the people in your group and then head off to a networking social with food and drink after. The makeup of this group is business owners that are all looking to develop their network. The meetings are a non-selling event, so you are not continually being bombarded with sales people like in many of the other social networking events in town. This group keeps it fun, and everyone at the event is there for the same reason... to build their business and business relationships through golf.
A key to being successful in networking is to follow up with some contact to those you met at the event and decided you both wanted to learn more about each other. Try to get back with the individual within a few days to setup a follow up meeting. The meeting should be focused on learning more about the other person and not finding a way to sell your stuff. Actively listen and ask questions that will allow you to learn more about them as a person as well as their business. This genuine approach will lead to a deeper relationship and ultimately business.
Many people network, but they are not effective because they either stick to the same events and talk to the same people. These people collect business cards but have no process for follow up or plan to help the other out proactively with introductions. Focus your time on those productive relationships and mix up your contacts. New business comes from a wide range of relationships.
Larry Turner is CEO of Roundhouse Advisors, Inc. and has over 25 years experience growing, starting up, repositioning, and revitalizing organizations. Roundhouse Advisors is a consulting practice focused on helping businesses increase enterprise value by managing pain, growth and owner exits. Larry is a consultant, public speaker, and the author of two books "Owner Exit Planning: Leave On Your Own Terms" and "Mapping Your Recovery: Grow sales in difficult times". For additional information visit www.RoundhouseAdvisors.com
"Mapping Your Recovery: Grow sales in difficult times" provides additional information on areas that can positively impact your company www.roundhouseadvisors.com/growsalesbook