Turning contacts into quality relationships takes effort. It is not enough to send a sporadic email or call or connect on social media. You need to invest in relationships to strengthen and grow them over time.
Effort, courage, perseverance, and authenticity will be the key success factors when it comes to building successful business relationships through networking.
Networking is one of the skills that needs your time and attention. It will help you navigate the challenging business environment in both the short and long term. This can be achieved by joining networking groups such as strong, casual-contact or online networks and attending networking events, but most importantly, doing it on a one-one-one basis is much more effective. But how? The following six networking tips can help you master business networking:
Networking needs to be done on a regular basis for it to yield positive results. There needs to be consistency. As an entrepreneur, you will need to commit your time, energy, education and knowledge to this exercise.
Before asking for something, make sure that you are the first person to give value to others. Also, give more than you can take, the receiver will appreciate and return the favour. Keep making personal investments by being a giver of value, such as information to help others achieve their business goals.
The moment you communicate with others, particularly about your business and how your services can be mutually beneficial, you are practicing the skill of networking. It is about human interaction and dialogue in person. This means that the other person can see and hear you.
Business networking is about being authentic, building trust and relationships. Always follow through on what you said you will do, whether it is to provide your fellow networker with information or a recommendation.
Moving it forward
This is all about expanding the other person’s network by answering questions such as:
How can I help them expand their network? Who do I have in mind that can help them grow their business?
Where do they need to go for services and how do they get in touch with people that are in the same business?
Have a plan
In order for your business networking efforts to be effective, you will have to have a plan. The first thing you need to do is to set your networking goals. For example, do you perhaps want to advance your knowledge in a specific market? The goal should be specific and attainable. Secondly, conduct research by asking yourself questions such as:
Who in my contacts can help me attain my goal and how do I get in touch with them? What do my contacts know or who do I want to know that can help me towards my goal? Make a list of the people that you can connect with over a stipulated period. Draft the message that you would like to communicate, tailored to each individual on your list of contacts.
Execute the plan by looking into your contact list and identify, for example, five people that you would like to meet. You can do this by calling or sending an email inviting them for lunch or dinner. Lastly, give them ample time to reply, for instance, three days. If there is no response, follow-up.
Networking can help you identify opportunities for partnerships, joint ventures, or new areas for expanding your business. Always remember to be the first person to contribute value and keep looking for networking opportunities, starting today.
*Mbo Luvindao is ESME Finance Branch Manager at Bank Windhoek