Business Networking Helps Grow Your Business – Fact Or Fiction

They say that one of the best ways to get business is through networking. So what is business networking all about, what makes it so invaluable to its supporters and how can you maximize your networking time? Here are 5 basic tips that will help in your business networking efforts.

A while back, my wife and I joined BNI, a local chapter of the largest business referral network in the world. I was a bit skeptical at first, thinking “how could this possibly help our business?” It didn’t take long for me to see that there actually can be value in meeting with other business owners and discussing what they do and how we can help each other grow our businesses.

We believe that in our networking meetings, if we focus on other people’s business, other people’s interests and engage them in conversation; it will make for a much more enjoyable experience. We ask ourselves, how can I help this person? Can I introduce a member to a possible partner or business opportunity? Do I have some great resource that they could benefit from? What one piece of information, advice or one contact could I give to this person?” Sooner or later most people do say, “So what exactly do you do and how can I help you?” which comfortably let’s you talk about what you offer without it appearing as a “sales pitch”.

All the effort you invest in helping others will come back to you as a positive impact on your business. Our BNI group also schedules a 10 minute presentation each week that rotates from member to member, providing the opportunity to describe, in greater detail, what the member does and how the organization can help them achieve their goals. We also have the option of scheduling a one hour 1-on-1 meeting with a member to exchange much more detailed information on each other’s business. We have had several meetings thus far and plan to meet with each member as soon as possible. We have a referral process as a standard agenda item each meeting where referrals are given back and forth. These referrals are recorded, tracked and the results are shared with the group each week as part of the referral update agenda item. It is amazing how many referrals are passed each month and the dollar impact it has on the businesses.

Maximizing your networking time can be summarized in the following points.

1. Dress appropriately for the meeting so you feel comfortable but also think about how you can be noticed and remembered. You are marketing yourself and representing your company – how do you want to be perceived?

2. Make time before the meeting to really think about the message you want to deliver. It will serve you well once you “get into” the meeting itself.

3. Try to speak with at least one new member each week to get better acquainted. You could even take the opportunity to set up a 1-on-1 meeting with that person.

4. Listen, Listen, Listen… spend time really hearing what other people are saying. Get them talking about themselves, their business and what challenges they are facing. Great networkers create relationships first. Time spent listening and gathering information will enable you to really understand how you can help someone. This is always the primary activity – give first.

5. Stay after the meeting and continue networking until the majority of attendees have left. This shows initiative, dedication and will reap rewards later.

In my experience with Business Networking, these are my observations. Thus far, I would say Business Networking DOES make a positive impact. This is FACT not Fiction.