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There’s more to good business than getting along with your co-workers and clients. There’s a big wide world out there and engaging with it brings new opportunities and new business.
We’re not sure when the simple act of conversation mutated into the formal act of business networking. We are sure however that speaking to like minded people is a really cost effective and rewarding way of spreading the word about your business and gaining new work into the bargain.
Events with networking opportunities have blossomed in the past decade. Whereas opportunities to meet with fellow professionals and potential new clients were once confined to a few formal functions a year, all of which were likely to be expensive to attend, there are now low-cost and no-cost opportunities every day of the week. Organising networking has become a service industry niche in its own right.
You can find plenty of networking opportunities, simply by reading the business pages; consulting the diary of any associations to which you subscribe; asking around your contacts; or simply checking with likely local venues. You could even just search online for networking or business meetings - or organise your own.
Springfords is a proactive player. We frequently attend networking events, where we make our brand visible to existing clients and interested others. We meet with fellow professionals and with new clients in informal surroundings. We also organise events that give our clients opportunities to meet us and to meet each other, adding value to being part of the Springfords network.
Making the most of networking doesn’t take much more than a spot of common sense, a bit of preparation, and a little practice. It might seem that a spot of courage is needed too - but you’ll soon find that any hesitation will evaporate when you make that first move into conversation.
You don’t have to be the life and soul of the party, though a healthy regard for being outgoing can be helpful. Without over doing the gregarious side of your nature, just exercise a willingness to mingle, and step outside your known circle. It’s straightforward but fairly useful for successful networking.
Be ready to engage in a little listening, as well as a little talking. We’ve often been advised to use our ears and mouth in the same ratio as nature provided. That’s usually where a succinct resume of your business comes in handy - the so-called elevator pitch. If you can’t fit something like: “We are a progressive firm of accountants and business advisors offering a wide range of accountancy, corporate finance and tax services to businesses and individuals in Central Scotland - and we’ve got free EV chargers too,” into less than the time it takes to get the lift from the ground floor to the top, you need to edit your message.
You’ll need to have your ears on too. Make sure you listen to other networkers, and be sure to take a card, take a note, or take a number. If you’re serious about networking, you’ll be serious about having something to aid your memory when you follow up later - preferably not too much later so you can start building a meaningful business relationship.
Networking isn’t the only answer to building your business - but it's a very good tool in your portfolio of operations. It’s certainly not the place to go into sales mode, or become the pariah of the room - the hunter-gatherer. Be cool, be yourself, and be more corporate ambassador than special sales force ninja. Networking is all about building relationships, not about sealing a deal on the day. Approach the exercise as one in raising awareness and spreading the word about what you do, rather than getting a signature on the dotted line. Put in the effort that way, and you’ll find lasting rewards come down the line.
Without going overboard - or becoming a serial networker - you can integrate networking into your other marketing and promotional efforts. Give yourself enough opportunities, and you’ll soon be a natural. You’ll find what you like best, and what makes a good networking event for you. With a little effort expended in structured follow up, you’ll find yourself in the driving seat in no time at all. You’ll have mutated into a proficient networker, and it’ll be the room that’s approaching you to join into your conversations. That’s when you know you’ve progressed beyond the stage of absolute beginner and you’ll be waxing lyrical with your own networking tips too.