Business Development Basics
A common sense approach to expanding your reach and influence for those who are new to networking
Networking as a buzzword has all but fizzled out. When most think of networking, they think of gatherings full of other like-minded individuals wielding stacks of business cards, poised to just get down to business.
Certainly, contacts are important. Often in business it really is about who you know. But in the game of building a successful business network, it's important to incorporate a purposeful, strategic approach.
First, what are your networking goals? Are you looking for direct, prospective customers and clients? Or are you looking for people who work in related industries who may be able to exchange referral leads with you?
Your best bet is going to be the latter, looking for referral partnerships. Those will be people who work in related fields that may be a good source of client leads for you as much as you may be a good source of client leads for them.
When making introductions, don't forget to smile. Be pleasant, communicative but not overpowering. Your first objective upon every new introduction should be to find out whether you are relevant to one another's business in some way.
Once it has been established that you have a common business interest, it is very important to find out more about the other person first. Ask probing questions about their area(s) of expertise, types of clients they need and where they typically find such leads. Find out in what ways you can bring value to them and their business. This is a powerful approach where you have an opportunity to demonstrate how you can be a resource to this person.
If all goes well, then you may be able to get yourself an appointment with this person to delve further into the topic of how you can constructively support one another's business. It's human nature for people to want to help you succeed if you demonstrate an effort toward helping them succeed first without solicitation.
Be sure to follow up, but don't pester the person. When following up, email is a polite method as it shows respect for the person's time. If the person has invited you to call them back, select a time when you know it might be convenient for them. The lunch hour is good as is mid-morning. If you don't hear back from the individual right away, follow up in a week or so, but don't be pushy. Be patient. If you don't yet know this person well, give them the benefit of the doubt.
The more you get to know a contact, the better able you'll be to communicate effectively with them.
Of course, you will undoubtedly run across people you don't click with. Sometimes people are like water and oil. Don't let this deter you. You don't have to love your contacts. It's helpful, but not necessary.
If you run across contacts who you have a difficult time connecting with, learn how these people best respond to you. Be a professional and learn to have a more adaptive communications style.
The most important thing to networking is there is no cookie-cutter approach. Think of this relative to your own personal relationships. No two are alike as they are as unique as every individual person.
You know yourself and your business best. If you sense someone may just be all talk or just isn't really giving you the time of day, give them a chance but know when to cut your losses. Your time and energy also have a value, so don't spend too much of it in the wrong places.
Good luck and happy networking!
Learn more about the author, Brad Davis.
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- business development
- referral partnerships
- expanding reach