Why go networking?
The world got turned upside down in 2020 and still today there are challenges associated with the pandemic, albeit a move towards a normal life. One of the areas of sales and marketing that adapted really quickly was business networking, moving from face-to-face meetings to online meeting using Zoom and other platforms. The question in this article is “why go networking”?
Networking has been around for many many years, the first coming together for group meetings can probably be seen to have started at exhibitions, then move across to actual focus networking groups in an industry alongside a trade organisation. Today business networking is very much associated with individuals representing themselves or a business they work for to promote their service to other businesses and individuals.
Today you can join a networking group in almost every town across the UK and in many cases multiple meetings run by large joined up networking groups through to a single group focused meeting organised by several like-minded individuals. The key for all these meetings is to promote what you do, and both give and receive referrals from fellow members.
With so many choices and groups to attend and join it is worth understanding what networking is and how it can work for you. If you are serious about networking then you need to attend a meeting on a regular basis, because ultimately you need to create meaningful relationships, plus people will only refer you or employ your services if they get to know you. It is very rare to pick up business at the first time of attending a meeting and you need to remember this.
Networking meetings are a great way to meet new contacts and share business, but they are not for everyone. Face to face meetings can be daunting, walking into a room full of strangers and selling you or your business, the same can be said for online too. The formats of many network groups are similar consisting of some general chit chat at the start, then into a formal introduction round (usually 60 seconds), a guest speaker and then some 1-2-1 meetings and finally feedback or referrals. There are variations on a theme, but that is the general format.
The key for networking either face-to-face or online is to have a 60 second or elevator pitch ready to use and rehearsed unless you can think well on your feet. You also need to let people have you details through a business card or on the networking chat online. Make sure you have good 1-2-1`s and always listen as well as discuss what you do and most of all always follow up with people and arrange further 1-2-1 meetings away from the group. Never blatantly sell and certainly never follow up and try to sell straight off the bat.
You really need to attend meetings regularly, many groups insist on this, but also find a group that you like and where you think you can add value and will result in business for you. Some groups operate a single seat membership, so if you are a plumber then you will be the only plumber in the group, other groups have no restrictions.
Networking is like anything else in sales and marketing, you can only get out what you put in and you need to attend on a regular basis, make connections, arrange 1-2-1s and follow up with people, you have no idea who knows who!