Business networking…. the mere mention will either send shivers down your spine or thoughts of elation.
Most fall into one camp or the other… rarely is there a middle ground.
I personally was not traditionally a fan of networking until I was able to really learn the long term benefits and devise a survival strategy by setting specific goals for my business networking around building meaningful and intentional connections.
Why Create Business Networking Goals:
- Attend the Right Events. With specific goals in mind, you’ll know exactly what events to attend and which ones will be a hard pass. I know for me personally, this specifically was a hard lesson, as so many of the traditional ‘networking groups’ were filled with realtors, financial advisors, and insurance sales people that didn’t have the money to purchase my marketing services. Save time by attending the right events that will serve a purpose.
- Save Frustration. Taking the time to identify your specific networking goals saves, not just time, but a lot of frustration. And further, when you get frustrated, don’t see results and have maxed out wasted time, you just increased the chance that you will quit. Don’t quit, just set goals and boundaries.
- Reach Your Business Goal. What gets measured, gets done! By developing a plan of attack in your business networking, you are much more likely to reach your business goals. All your efforts will be focused on achieving the results you want and need to achieve. You will need more that just the “people they know”. You’ll need to find actuall business partners.
What Type of Business Networking Goal Should I Choose?
This will largely depend on your specific needs. And over time, with new situations, these might change. Generally, you may be looking for clients, but in December, you need to network to find new potential employees.
The most popular business networking goals, by far, are:
- Get more customers/clients for your business
- Connect with referral partners … to get more customers/clients for your business
- Look for job prospects or keep opportunities open
- Increase your general skills, knowledge and abilities
Or it can be a more focused approach. The key is to determine what you want to happen, and then tailor a specific approach or strategy. You may want to consider drafting a Networking purpose statement, where you clearly state WHAT you want to accomplish. This simple statement can help clarify in your mind what you want to do and keep you focused on that result. For example, in the Employment Services industry those needs might be:
- Grow the employer and/or job seeker client base
- Match a job seeker to an employer
- Heighten brand awareness of what your service/business can do to help
In the case of your own professional development those needs might be:
- Enhance your knowledge or skill in a specific area of business
- Increase your ability to meet your KPI targets
- Increase your personal or professional profile
- Improve a specific networking skill (like public speaking)
Phil Guinouard is a BeeKonnected Qualified Founding Affiliate, whose core business has been selling Melaleuca, has built his 500+ client base entirely by networking. His favorite networking spots have been Chamber of Commerce (hit or miss), BNIs, face to face networking groups, easier to gauge energy, looking for cues.
Looking for energy levels, if they have a good vibe, that is what I am interested in. I don’t want to be around “Debbie Downers”.
Looking for the small cues where my products can serve them directly. The little cues like that. And leaves me the opportunity to circle back around later, no need for immediate pitch. Opens an opportunity.
I typically go in with goal. If it is a regular group, has different goals than a once a month mixer. Find four or 5 strong people I connect with. Quality connections. What I found is that the more, if I walk out with 40–50 business cards, the reality of following up with those 40–50 people is virtually none. And you haven’t even built enough of a quality relationship to really call on them. Once I found those 4–5, I can narrow down how I can work with them directly.
Absolutely helps to have specific goals. As long as I have been in BNI, people who are new, if they don’t have a goal, they will hang out witht h 3 or 4 people they already know. But when you have a goal, you are going to keep moving throught the room. I can have my connections introduce me to others. When I don’t have a goal, I feel like a fish out of water and feel like I wasted my time.
Typically I find more customers for Melaleuca. 20–25% of my customers actually engage with me on the business side of what I do. I have found some strong referral sources. Partners Health Insurance and Life and Insurance. When they take in a new client there are health concerns and they refer back to the NP in the chapter to help lose the 25 pounds so they can get onto a health insurance plans.
I am always looking for sharp entrepreneurial people.
I am never looking to buy, however I am looking to see if there is anything of value. If I have a good relationship, and they have a product or service I need, I will look to them first.
We knew each other a bit before the networking groups. We did our one to ones and he was never interested in the products. Then one time he just asked to try some. So he becomes a customer. He was a successful commercial realtor. He started to referring.
How do you measure networking success? I think for me it is probably 2 fold. 1) is my business growing, but the pitfall is they come into a networking and think that will be the end all and be all of their business — it is just another avenue. Is your customer base growing, is your message being recieved. 2) on the other side, I have people & resources. People know that I am connected. A lot of people acknowledge that I am well connected. Being the connected one generates more.
Took me a couple of years to reach a spot where I was well connected, but that was because he chose leaderships positions. Taking on a leadership position, you’re making connections with people. You are seen more than the normal meeting.
There are things that we start that have a specific purpose. The purpose was to get connected with more leaders, but it had a diminishing return, so I walked away.