Five Secrets to Powerful Networking
Five Secrets to Powerful Networking
Networking is a robust strategy to boost your sales and marketing. In fact, if done well, it can prove to be one of the least expensive and most effective tactics. Plus, the connections and relationships you build with people can give you an edge in all aspects of your business for years to come.
Many women don't know how to get started in networking. But you actually have an advantage because women tend to be natural networkers and are particularly adept at relationship-building, which is so important to achieving business success.
of the biggest myths is that networking is about working a room, glad-handing everyone in sight and handing out as many business cards as you can. But that could not be further from the truth. The art of effective networking lies in building mutually beneficial relationships that can lead to business down the road. It's all about establishing those relationships before you need them.
Here are five secrets to becoming a strong, effective networker:
• Join an organization. Whether it's a women's business association, your local Chamber of Commerce or a community club, join a group to expand your contacts. Getting involved by volunteering for a board or committee is another terrific way to make valuable new contacts and build relationships.
• Prepare. Have a compelling ""elevator"" pitch ready for events – a 20 to 30 second thumbnail description of who you are, what services or products you provide in your business and the unique value they offer. Be sure you bring along your business cards to exchange with quality contacts. Before attending any business event, give some thought to what you hope to get out if it and what you can offer in return. What you give will come back tenfold.
• Act like the host and not the guest. Try to engage others. Approach strangers, introducing yourself with your brief elevator pitch and listen, ask questions, introduce them to others. Focus on connecting with new people.
• End diplomatically. This is easy if there is a mutual desire between you and a new contact to meet again – agree to set up an appointment. But if you don't want to pursue anything because you see no potential business connection or you simply don't click, then a diplomatic way to end is to paraphrase what was said: ""Mary, it's wonderful to hear about your upcoming trip to Chicago. I look forward to hearing more next time."" Another tip is to introduce her to someone else with whom she may have more in common.
• Follow up. Respond to new contacts in a timely fashion – whether to set up that meeting or even just a brief, 'Nice to have met you', note. Always send anything you may have promised. Periodically passing on any information that may be valuable to people in their business, such as an interesting article, is a good way to keep you top of mind and reinforce the relationship.
By following these five steps, you'll be well on your way to becoming a consummate networker!
Where to Network?
These tips will help you focus on where you can best network for impact:
• Become active in your industry association and join women's business organizations. A particularly good source to find one in your region is through Women Entrepreneurs of Canada (WEC), which has a community of interest that includes women's business organizations and groups right across Canada. If you export or want to look into it, consider joining the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT), which is dedicated to advancing global trade opportunities for women. The Canadian chapters are in Ontario and Alberta.
• Attend your industry trade shows and conferences and participate in trade missions.
These are excellent ways to make face-to-face contact with industry movers and shakers, government representatives, customers and prospects.
• Consider social and cultural events as networking avenues. If you practise networking as a life skill, you will be surprised at the business opportunities that may crop up when you interact socially with people who share your interests.
Network from your desk by catching the next marketing wave – social networking. Because of the sheer numbers of people on board, businesses are naturally looking to social networking sites as marketing tools for their products and services. They are also using these sites as a way to communicate with existing employees or recruit new ones, to access expertise by connecting with individuals in similar industries, and to find associates with whom to partner on specific jobs or projects. Check out Facebook with its close to 70 million members, LinkedIn, which has a purely business focus, or, if you want to create your own social network group, try Ning.
• You can join a Facebook group for women entrepreneurs at www.wec.ca . And be sure to regularly visit Scotiabank's Forum for small business, which is another great avenue for social networking.
Susan Baka has more than 10 years experience as an information specialist, seasoned writer and international speaker.