Maybe you’ve just started up in business and you’ve heard about modern networking groups and how important they will be to your new business. Maybe you need to expand your business and venture into new areas and feel that networking groups may help. So what is this modern networking all about and how does it differ from the old-fashioned networking where you simply kept in regular touch with your friends, peers and business colleagues?
Here is some good news. There is no fundamental difference. Networking, in both the personal and the business sense, will always be about building solid, quality relationships over time.
Modern business networking groups are basically groups of business people who meet regularly for networking purposes and business growth.
The bad news is that a great many modern business networking groups are actually profit generating businesses in their own right. Attendance of the various groups can be quite expensive for new or expanding businesses. Getting the fundamentals of networking right can, however, more than recoup the outlay in terms of business generated and profits made. As with all aspects of running a business, the onus is on you to measure this Return on Investment (ROI) and act appropriately to ensure that you are where you want to be at all times.
As this article is aimed at business networking, I will talk about using the “Know, Like and Trust” approach and why it is an excellent way to go. It is a proven and repeatable process that will stand you in good stead. As with so much in life, the more time and effort you put into the process, the better the results you will obtain.
Remember that business networking should never be about selling – you should be engaged in quality relationship building. You may of course sell early on if conditions prove ideal but that is not your primary aim. Pushy salespeople will be easily get to the Know stage but rarely any further.
At the Know stage of the process you are aiming to build a network of people who know about you and know about your business. You should commit to being consistent in attending events and make a real effort to keep in regular contact with your developing network group. The members of your network group will then see you much more and therefore get to know you much more. You will be on their collective radar. At this stage you will get to know them as well. You may well know many, if not all, of the network group within quite a short time. You will begin, hopefully, to move into the Like sector.
Reaching the Like stage is not actually about being liked in the sense of “I like Andy, he’s a really great guy”, although being liked in this way is obviously a real bonus. Rather, you will be liked as in accepted as a serious and consistent business person with a good business offering. The members of the networking group who like you would readily consider asking for your advice or input and might even consider referring you if the opportunity arose.
Bear in mind here that you are aiming for quality business relationships. You will not be liked by all members of the group and, in turn, you will not like all of the group members. It is unrealistic to think otherwise. The numbers in your network circle at each stage of know, like and trust process should reduce. It is simply a factor of the time available to spend on maintaining each relationship and the depth of the various relationships. You have to go for quality over quantity if all parties in the deeper relationships are to benefit.
The real business benefits start at the Trust stage of the process. Here, people will genuinely want to work with you or have you do work for them and they will happily recommend you to others if asked. They may even become advocates for you; actively and enthusiastically looking for opportunities for you, as they work with their own clients and customers. This group should be your networking core. You will form close bonds and you will likely become good friends with them. You will likely be acting as their advocates as well. You will have to earn this trust and maintain it well. Remember, what goes around comes around in the world of business and business networking.