Networking – taking a bundle of your business cards, heading for a room full of strangers, and looking for anyone who wants to buy your products and services – right? WRONG! Networking is about building relationships NOT about making sales.
How many times have you been to a networking event where people have given you their card, told you what they do, and never contacted you again? Perhaps you have even been guilty of doing it yourself.
Think about this scenario for a moment. You go to a networking event, a widget maker hands you their card, says they’ll do you a great deal, and rushes off to sell more widgets. You don’t need widgets but you work with a number of manufacturers who are often looking for widget suppliers so you tuck the card away for later. Sadly you never hear from the widget maker again. Are you likely to refer them to your business associates?
Later in the evening you meet a second widget maker. This widget maker asks about your business and suggests that you get together later to see how you may be able to help each other. Following a meeting with the second widget maker you discover that this person offers just the sort of widgets which your business associates have been looking for. And as an added bonus it turns out that they have a colleague who is looking for your products and services.
Are you a widget seller or a networker?
You have two choices when you are networking – you can focus on trying to find customers, or you can focus on building your sales team. So the next time you go to a networking event, don’t discount everyone who isn’t in the market for your “widgets” today. Instead focus on building quality relationships and looking for opportunities to help the other person.
We all prefer to do business with people we know and trust. The next best choice is someone recommended by someone we know and trust. In fact networking and referrals account for more than 85% of business in the marketplace. Referrals can come from two different sources:
1) Satisfied customers who have used your products/services
2) Your business network, people who trust you enough to refer work to you even if they have never used your products and services.
Many of the people you meet may never become a customer but if they trust and respect you, and see you as professional in what you do, they will be happy to refer work to you. These people are your best sales team. Isn’t it worth spending time and energy earning that trust and respect?
Brenda Thomson is the CEO and Founding Director of Networking World
The Australian Small Business Blog