When I first started my business I embarked upon a networking campaign by attending as many events as I could! It was pretty much a scatter-gun approach with no strategic plan in place, a small budget and not really knowing what to expect.
I joined the local Chamber of Commerce, a couple of breakfast networking clubs and searched out anything that had a “networking” theme. I became the “Queen of Networking”!
It was only when I had been trading for a year, and the membership renewal invoices started to arrive, that I realised that I had no idea if any of these events had resulted in any new contacts or customers. I decided at that point to put systems in place to monitor how effective my networking was. I then had a great way of knowing which networking events were most effective for my business.
I strongly believe that networking has three main benefits:
- Growing your contact database – contacts are essential for expanding your business network of potential customers and referrers
- Building relationships – trusted relationships take time to build and are essential to business growth
- Being remembered for the right reasons – being helpful and a sharer of information will reap rewards in the future
For me, networking isn’t just about “getting the sale”. So often, I am asked “How many leads did you get?”. In fact, I positively avoid the sales type approach and hard follow up. I simply link up via Linkedin and only email if I’ve promised to do so.
I spend the majority of my networking time building trusted relationships, listening to others, getting to know people and offering help, entirely without agenda. If one of these relationships recommends me in the future or becomes a customer, that is fantastic.
I do recall on one occasion receiving a phone call from a lady that had kept my details for four years. All she said was, “When I first met you, you were so helpful and I always remembered that…now I need your services.”
I now ensure that I only attend networking events or renew networking memberships where I know that I will build those relationships.
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[Picture courtesy of Ladies First Professional Development. From left: Julie Richardson, Sandra Garlick and Lisa Kennedy]
Sandra Garlick frequently speaks about “Networking for Success” and will be speaking at the FSB B2B Expo on this topic on Tuesday 10th January 2016 at The Belgrade Theatre in Coventry. You can book your free place here.