Business Networking for Success and Sustainable Growth

By Kevin DUCHEYNE

Competence plays a big part in succeeding in this life, especially in the long run, whether personally or professionally. However, networking is vital. We all heard the old adage: ‘It’s not what you know. It’s whom you know that matters most.’ Although it may sound counter-intuitive, there is some truth to this saying. Therefore, LSBC has already published some articles on the benefits of business networking, and why you should start networking.

Like personal networking, business networking is all about connecting to people as well—an essential aspect of doing business. Particularly, if you realize that companies do not make decisions, but people do. Now, in this article, we will dig a bit deeper and try to emphasize the ‘how.’ Although, if there is only one thing you will remember from this text, let it be this: ‘It’s equally important to spend a substantial amount of time working on your business as you would spend working in your company.’ So try to budget some time each month for business networking. Get out of the office whenever you can and forge some new connections.

Ten tips for efficient business networking?

1. Socialize: do not be shy.

If you are naturally shy, networking can seem like an insurmountable obstacle. Nevertheless, you can brainstorm about possible strategies and overcome introversion. For instance, before attending a business networking event, you can think of several conversational icebreakers. It takes the pressure, from coming up with instantaneous small talk on the spot, off your shoulders. In case you feel overwhelmed at some point, you should allow yourself to take a quick breather. Grab a drink, get a snack, or catch some fresh air outside.

2. Collaborate: do not be selfish.

Business networking is about give-and-take. Once you start collaborating with others, instead of competing with them, a positive shift happens. Consequently, new connections, partnerships, and friendships come into play. People tend to become much more trusting of each other when a business relationship is mutually beneficial. Your new business partners might even become more willing to go the extra mile to achieve qualitative results. Keep in mind that business relationships are more sustainable when all parties involved benefit from them.

3. Go out: attend business networking events. 

This is an obvious suggestion. But we cannot emphasize the importance of figuring out where you can go to make some new connections enough. Ask around. Do some online research and choose the right business networking events, because not every group of entrepreneurs will be right for you. Nevertheless, whatever you do, try to attend suitable business networking events whenever you have the time (Disclaimer: do not forget to take the necessary precautions during the current COVID-19 pandemic while attending events.).

4. Be visible: raise brand awareness.

People need to know what you are doing. Create business cards, a website, and set up a business phone. Share your company details with people as you simultaneously explain what it is that you do. Perhaps it’s even a good idea to start a blog, send out a newsletter, or gain more visibility on social media, and make sure that people can find your business on Google. 

5. Follow up: actively engage yourself.

Networking isn’t solely about exchanging business cards, and connecting on LinkedIn. Making a new connection is only half the battle. So, stay in touch with whomever you liked, but don’t become too pushy. Find a good reason to follow up. Send a relevant article on a topic you discussed. Follow up on emails that you sent, but weren’t answered. Send an invitation to an exciting seminar. Start doing what you promised to do for them. 

“Networking is simply the cultivating of mutually beneficial, give and take, win-win relationships. It works best, however, when emphasizing the “give” part.”

Bob Burg (author)

6. Listen: it is all about the long term.

Carefully develop these new relationships. Ask questions, listen to your new associates, and respond thoughtfully. People enjoy talking about themselves. Hence, it would help if you take a genuine interest in what they have to stay. Learn about their challenges, and get to know them better. Eventually, listening may lead to a productive and efficient professional future.

7. Be patient: relationships take time to build.

Some people need more time to warm up to new business connections. However, once they find out more about your services, competences, or products, they can become loyal customers, partners, or subcontractors. Therefore, you should give them time to get to know you and your brand. All the while keeping in mind that word-of-mouth and direct referrals can get you far. 

8. Meet up: meet new connections in person.

Not only is networking key, but also meeting people in person is essential. For example, people in Slovenia aren’t very responsive to emails. They instead call each other and tend to do business while meeting up for a coffee. Every culture has its customs. Therefore, you should find out which personal approach works best for your business network and adapt accordingly. Hence it will be much easier (and faster) to reach your business partners or clients on the phone than by email. In a nutshell, meet up with those who can connect you with companies who need what you offer. 

9. Ask: no, you’ve got. Yes, you can get.

Everybody needs help now and then, and there’s no such thing as a wrong question. So, do not back down from asking for assistance or advice from your network. So the next time you come across someone who asks you if they may be of service, you should tell them the truth. 

10. Awareness: create an elevator pitch.

Business networking isn’t about selling yourself; it’s about creating a valuable connection with other people. Although, you do need to have something qualitative to offer. Nevertheless, providing an excellent product or service is only one part of the equation. You need to be able to articulate what you do as well. It is challenging to expand your client portfolio, find the right subcontractors, and connect with good advisors. So make sure that you know your worth. Create an elevator pitch and put your worth into words. Consequently, this pitch will enable you to convey your message while networking. 

To summarize, it does not matter how you look at it; business networking is worth your time and energy. People will do business with you based on recommendations from their business network. If you plan on doing business, you will need to invest time and resources in networking before you will be able to showcase your competence. You can read more about business networking in this Master’s thesis: ‘The role of business networking in success of B2B companies in the Slovene market.‘ [1]

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REFERENCE

1. Babik, N. (2015). The role of business networking in success of B2B companies in the Slovene market (Master’s thesis). University of Ljubljana Faculty of Economics, Ljubljana, Slovenia.