Business networking is a great way to build your business, but sometimes it takes too long to generate enough contacts who pass on your details and create referrals for you. Nearly every business owner who succeeds at networking focuses on associations, not selling. Here’s how it work.
The networking problem
For the owners of many small businesses, networking starts enthusiastically, and then goes sour as they get sucked in to doing more networking, to meet more contacts, to discuss their offer, have 121s and then do more, and more of the same.
Of course it works, but it takes a lot of time up.
Your network is the secret, not the meetings.
If all you do in your networking is go to meetings, you are missing the important part of networking. The secret is to use your network, and to use the meetings to add to your network when you need to. In fact, you don’t even need to go to meetings in order to add to your network (social media is a good way of meeting others).
The real trick is to focus on the important relationships, and what you can give to (and get from) them.
Develop 2-3 powerful associations with business owners who have similar values and clients to you. If you have similar values and clients with similar problems it becomes easier to discuss issues and swap referrals with each other.
Greg was an electrician, he went to several networking meetings, then gave up as they took too long. However, he did meet up with Bob the builder, who he met at a meeting. He and Bob had a couple of beers one night, talked a bit, realised they could share leads, but nothing happened. Then they met up a few more times, got to trust each other and started passing lots of referrals. Business was going well for Greg, and he went back to a networking meeting (grudgingly), where he met Pete (the plumber). He and Pete went for a beer, leading to more referrals. He then realised that networking meetings are good, but not in the way he first believed
The relationship always comes first
The example above is about trades people, but it works with professional services, health related services, financial, design, etc.
However, nothing happens until the relationship goes above the ‘nice to know you‘ stage and moves into a ‘trustworthy’ stage. One thing to avoid is to expect business to flow before the relationship.