As the summer fades away to a distant memory and most of us return to our desks, so begins the invitations to events, briefings, lunches etc. many with the promise of networking opportunities and the possibility of business referrals. The blurb almost seems to suggest that if you are prepared to give up a couple of hours of your time, new business can be yours. This is a gross over-simplification of the networking process.
First of all, no matter what you manufacture or which service you provide, business is done by people with other people. Therefore the old networking maxim, “Meet, Know, Like, Trust” (which was recently reminded to the attendees of a breakfast meeting of the South Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry) really comes into play.
Attending networking events allows you access to, and the opportunity to meet, many people in business. Hopefully you will cast off any nerves and talk to a number of these people. By regular attendance at these events you will come across some of these individuals again, speak to them some more, and get to know them.
As in all walks of life, some people you meet you will find that you have much in common with; others less so – but in whom you may still hold a healthy respect for. These are the people you now know in business and whom you realise you actually like.
And being human, we all prefer to deal with people we like and furthermore people we trust.
Another important rule to get the best out of networking is to “give”. It’s not all about securing referrals out of every networking contact but more about building long and lasting relationships. Think about how you can assist a networking contact with a problem or issue that he/she is currently experiencing. Perhaps you know someone who can help them. Remember, in the same way that you will recommend the services of a trusted network colleague to your other contacts, these network colleagues will also be recommending you, when appropriate, if they like and trust you. So goes the power of networking.
Hence, “Meet, Know, Like, Trust”.