We all know that effective networking is an important skill for business leaders today. But for most of us it is not something that comes naturally or that we may have received any formal training. If like many of us, you’re not one of the lucky few who it comes naturally to, then read on to find out what I consider to be four important areas to focus your networking efforts, to assist you to achieve networking success.
It’s common for people to feel slightly apprehensive about networking, it can at times be confronting and a little uncomfortable, but it’s a skill that with practice will improve and trust me you will reap the rewards from effective networking.
We’ve all heard the old saying, “it’s not what you know but who you know.” But I’d like to explore further what this means in business today. I believe it’s who you know that has the potential to open doors, and what you know that keeps you there.
So what does networking in business mean?
Let’s look at the scope and importance of networking starting with a definition from Webster’s Dictionary; “networking is the exchange of services amongst individuals, groups or institutions; specifically the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.”
In today’s world of business I believe it’s all about the cultivation of productive relationships for employees and business. So now let’s look at the four key areas networking needs to cover;
Networking with Employees
Leaders need to spend more time and efforts developing relationships with their employees. They are your most valuable asset and need to be looked after, which I believe is a core function of leadership. It can be as simple as getting to know your employees and their families, holding an employee function or as simple as taking them to lunch and thanking them.
Networking with Suppliers
It is not a common practice, however I believe leaders need to network and build relationships with key suppliers. There are enormous benefits if done well including referrals, lower pricing, better terms, unique supply arrangements and secure long term business. It can be as simple as a phone calls, going out to lunch or to a sporting events or attending an organized function.
Networking with Customers
It should not be underestimated as to the importance for a leader of a business to network with your key customers; trust me your competitors are doing this with your clients. This I believe is a critical form of networking with the principle objective of retaining key customers and also obtaining additional work. Again this can simply be achieved by picking up the phone, going out to lunch, a simple thank you letter and attending functions or specific targeted entertainment.
Networking with Prospects
This is about developing relationships with prospective customers to a stage where prospects decide to buy from you. This is where the clever part of networking comes in. As an extension of your marketing strategies and the principles of “Zebra selling,” it’s a matter of working out what your target market segments are, who the key companies you want to work with are, who the people of power are and where they visit. You then can decide to visit these places also – and network. This may include joining a club, joining an industry association, or joining a local business network.
They say cold calling is dead however warm calling is not, which means getting to know your prospects before you make contact. Luckily social media is an amazing tool being used by many to undertake online networking.
Today in this fast paced business environment we all need to leverage the people around us and as I have mentioned, we must remember networking is much more than just searching out new clients.
Business leaders must spend time targeting their networking efforts and find a formula that works for you.
I trust you have found this article interesting and thought provoking, if you would like to know more simply contact;