Networking for some, can be a scary word. The thought of standing up and introducing yourself to large groups of people and walking into a room where everybody knows everybody else, is understandably daunting. Whilst others may see it as a waste of time – taking up a large chunk of the working day.
At Sixothree, we find networking to be a hugely worthwhile experience for a number of reasons, and not just the obvious ones. In today’s blog we discuss the reasons why you really should be networking, and what we’ve learnt through our networking experiences.
Yes, networking may fill you with dread – especially if you aren’t the most confident person. But if you persevere, it will become easier. As they say, practise makes perfect. You will build confidence week on week and introducing yourself to a room of business men and women on a regular basis will do wonders for not only your confidence but also your presentation skills.
Boosting your profile
This is an obvious one, but a very important point to make. Networking for most is essentially about boosting their own profile in a crowded market place. Visiting and guesting at networking groups will allow you to determine which group will be the best fit for you and your business. Once you decide on the group and take the plunge to join, you will build your profile each week. It’s important to be clear in your mind what you want to achieve from networking – what you want your fellow members to take away with them about your business – and remind them of this time and time again. A key benefit of joining a networking group which meets regularly is that you are in front of the same people frequently, reminding them you’re there, you’re looking for business, and exactly what referrals you’re looking for.
If you’re willing to work at networking, and genuinely get to know people within the networking group, opportunities will come your way. We often say that those you network with are your ‘extended sales team’. Once people start to know you, like you, and trust you as a person and as a business they will start to look for opportunities to refer work to you. Don’t expect this to happen overnight – this is a common mistake people make. As with most things in life it will take time for people to get to know you and understand the type of referral you’re looking for, and to build meaningful relationships with people within the room. It’s important however, to remember that you’re not just there to pick up referrals – it’s a two-way street. You’re there to refer business to each other and it’s your responsibility to find referrals for your members too. If you are just seen to take and not give work, you’ll soon see a drop in referrals given to you.
Meetings outside the room
Attending a networking meeting is of course about networking with the people in the room but make sure you take time to get to know individuals personally, outside of the room. In networking this is often referred to as a one-to-one. A meeting where you take time away from the group to learn about each other’s business. It’s difficult to get a great deal of information across in the 60 second allotted time you’re often given to talk about your business, so these one-to-ones can be really important. Also, you never know who people within your networking group are connected to – They may be best friends with somebody you have been trying to speak to for months.
Don’t be afraid to ask
If you have a specific company you want to work with, or are looking to work within a specific industry, don’t be afraid to ask your networkers for help – Especially if the company is local as someone may well have a contact and a way in for you. The more specific you can be when asking for referrals the better, as it really focuses people on what/who you’re looking for.
Most networking groups will lock down seats once a profession is taken. For example, if there is a web developer in your networking group, another web developer wouldn’t then be able to join. However, don’t be afraid to find out more about individuals within your networking group. Individuals may have joined your networking group under one business hat, but they may have multiple businesses or specialisms that could be useful to you. You often don’t find this out until you have those one-to-ones.
Is networking for you?
If you know you need to boost your profile and start networking, you need to think about several things before you start. Which networking group is right for you and how will you measure your return on investment from networking? As we mentioned earlier on, some people are sceptical of networking and see it as a waste of time. Networking won’t be for everyone. If you don’t put the work in, it’s likely you won’t get the return. It is important to monitor the return on investment - Not only looking at your outgoing spend but also the value to you of being out of the office for that period of time. It may take months before you start to see a return on investment but you need to ensure networking and the group you have joined is of value to you and your business.
We’ve written another blog ‘Networking in Manchester’, which takes you through the key questions to ask when considering networking, and how to choose the best group for you.
We currently network at BNI Genesis in Ashton-Under-Lyne and BforB Ladies in Bury. If you’d like to learn more about networking or would like to come as our guest at either of our networking groups, please get in touch.