Business networking is using business and personal relations to bring you a consistent stream of new business and resources. It is how people get things done in the modern world. From sales to project collaboration, the best networkers usually have the highest success rate in their profession. So how does one network?
Business networking is more than showing up at networking functions, shaking everyone’s hand and collecting a plethora of business cards. It is about getting out of your office and finding like-minded people who you can connect with and start relationships with. Some of these relationships will yield immediate results and others will grow over time. The important thing is that you are constantly meeting new people. Where do you find these “like minded people?”
Networking can happen almost anywhere if you keep an eye out for opportunities. When starting out, it is easiest to get your feet wet by attending networking specific functions. Trade associations and business related organizations like the Chamber of Commerce offer many networking specific opportunities. Most are listed on the organization’s website.
There are other organizations dedicated solely to business networking. They are usually exclusive in some form or fashion. Some examples are Woman Entrepreneurs (WE) and Business Network International (BNI). Other sources of networking opportunities can be found through the charitable organizations you volunteer for. Think of all the memberships you belong to like church, PTA, and Rotary. Each one of these organizations is a great place to build relationships with like-minded people.
Choose your networking involvement based on what type of relationships you are looking to build. It might be futile to join a business referral club if you are solely looking to collaborate. In this case, it would be better to find a trade association where you can connect with colleagues willing to share information.
Regardless of where you network or why you network, it is important to remember to stay proactive. Creating a plan and scheduling your networking activity will help incorporate networking into your daily routine. Keep track of your success by quantifying each networking event. Look at the quality of people you met and make sure they are the caliber of professionals you want to associate with. Be crucial of yourself as well and hold yourself accountable to meeting new people every time.
Give yourself goals. Break your goals down from yearly to monthly and even weekly milestones. The clearer your goals, the more likely you are to realize how much you are reaping from your networking activities. Make your goals just out of your comfort zone, but be realistic. Remember that quality is always better than quantity when it comes to building relationships.
Finally, stay positive. Business networking is like a sports activity; the more you practice, the better you get. If you are just starting out, don’t be discouraged if you don’t find your next big client the first time out. The best relationships evolve over time. If you are genuine and true to yourself, you will connect with the right individuals. Then you will be one of those people you envied before using business networking to your advantage.
President/CEO of Buzzbizz Studios, LLC
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