by helen on July 14, 2011

Don’t forget the work in networking

PR people are natural networkers right? Well, not in my case unfortunately. Given a story and a list of people to contact, I will happily “sell in” all day – on behalf of someone else. But until recently, walking into a room full of strangers with the intention of selling my own business was not something I enjoyed and which definitely didn’t come naturally!

But then I realised that networking isn’t about selling. At least not in the short term anyway. And now I am thoroughly enjoying rooms full of strangers – and finding out plenty about the people doing business inYorkshire around me.

I have known Steve Kitchman for more years than I would like to mention. We have worked together (him as my client, me as an associate of his agency) and I have always admired his ability to network. So here are a few words of advice from Steve – who is currently the Area Leader for 4Networking in Doncaster, Rotherham, Bawtry and Scunthorpe.

Business networking is nothing new, we’ve been doing it in this country for years now, but there is still a fear factor for some business owners, or an attitude from some company bosses of it being a ‘skive off work for a couple of hours’.

However some businesses and individuals have done very well out of constantly networking.  New companies and even consultants have sprung up all over the UK in recent years offering advice on how to network properly and more effectively. For those who want to increase their own profile and hopefully business sales, there are dozens of networking meetings to choose from in your local area.  For example 4Networking is an organisation with around 400 breakfast events taking place in towns and cities across the UK.

Networking meetings range from weekly, fortnightly or monthly, morning breakfast events to lunchtime meets, even after-work informal catch-ups into the early evening are available. The choice is vast; some meetings offer a very formal system where members ‘refer’ business to each other, so keeping the work within their network of contacts. Other organisations, such as 4Networking, base their successful networking philosophy on a meet-like-know-trust basis, where members are encouraged to keep networking together in a more relaxed 50/50 business and social atmosphere.

When we think about it, we all network in the most unusual of places without knowing we’ve done it. For example we chat about our business in the supermarket, at the pub or in a restaurant. When done naturally it seems very easy, the nerves however only start to appear when asked to stand up and talk for 30 seconds to a room full of people, or if we have to walk into a room full of strangers!

Networking can be fun as well as help to improve your own skills and confidence levels, not to mention improve your business too. If you want to try it out, perhaps for the first time, or are seasoned networkers looking for something different, research the market first as there are a lot to choose from. Ask if you can attend as a visitor, to try it out first before committing.

10 handy tips to remember when networking:

  1. Do plan and rehearse your elevator pitch
  2. Do practice your listening skills and remember to talk benefits, not facts
  3. Do ask to exchange business cards (make sure you have plenty)
  4. Do call or follow up with people you meet, especially if you say you will
  5. Do remain positive and see all contacts as potentials at first
  6. Don’t dismiss someone’s business pitch as being no use to you
  7. Don’t just attend 2 or 3 times and expect business immediately
  8. Don’t try and just sell, sell, sell. Networking takes time, effort and patience
  9. Don’t explain to people what you ‘are’.  Explain to them what you ‘do’
  10. Don’t forget the work in networking!

Do you enjoy networking? What’s your top tip for doing it right?

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