As the world reopens, networking is one of the key areas that business owners will start to refocus. will start to refocus. Yet for smaller businesses, and those who have set up during lockdown, networking can be a minefield. Cosalea is one of Bury’s newest café and business venues, and we’ve put together a guide to help you prepare for your first networking experiences.
Networking has been described as the number one unwritten rule of success in business. But does this bring to mind a scenario in which you’re forced to compete for attention in an environment where brash personalities dominate the room talking only about themselves and the success they’ve achieved in their own field?
Rest assured! While situations of this kind can never be avoided completely, the good news is that they are not the norm! Remember, essentially networking is about developing precisely this-a network. It’s not about maximising the number of networking events you attend but it is about cultivating two-way, trust-based work relationships. And as it’s probably the single most powerful force- aside from actual expertise- that can influence your career, it makes sense not only to embrace it but ultimately use it to your advantage.
So just what are some of the misconceptions out there that may have been holding you back?
Is it the best use of my time?
With our busy workloads to contend with, this is a reasonable question. After all there are only so many hours in a day to ensure everything gets done, hence the understandable argument in favour of choosing to focus directly on the nuts and bolts of running a business. Yet, if the time we invest in networking is to pay off, we must be strategic in how we go about it.
- Be thoughtful about who you have in your network and the best way to connect with them.
- Spend your time wisely by focusing on these relationships and nurturing them in the longer term.
- Be deliberate about which organisations and events you attend to help you connect with potential contacts.
- Be proactive!
It has to be done face-to-face.
This isn’t necessarily the case. Generally in-person meetings are ideal but that’s not to say email, phone or Linked-In aren’t effective, after all we are living in a digital world. Management Consulted consider a warm email to be just as productive but remind us when using a platform like Linked-In, that the key to connecting successfully with someone we don’t know is to be as personable as we can.
Networking is only worthwhile if it leads to direct business deals
Such a cynical view! It’s true that networking might get you noticed, but there’s no guarantee of immediate work. And this mindset entirely misses the point of networking which is to build mutually beneficial relationships. The golden rule of networking is that you are not necessarily pitching your business to people in the room – you need to also be mindful of who they know in tier own wider network. That’s where the magic happens!
Introverts aren’t good at Networking
Even if you consider yourself to be something of a wallflower, there’s no need to shy away from networking-the prospect needn’t be overwhelming. There’s a school of thought that everyone needs and can build a network- and interestingly, that introverts can be just as good at this as extroverts, if not better. Research shows that the most well-liked people are typically those known for their ability to listen which is a trait we tend to associate with introverts.
It’s all in the preparation-and don’t forget, the skill involved in approaching potential contacts can be honed over time. It’s not essential to work the entire room at an event, instead focusing on two or three people (having practised what to say beforehand), then letting them talk about themselves will quickly become second nature. Successful networking should feel natural and not forced. In other words, it shouldn’t actually feel like networking at all!
There are so many insincere people at Networking Events
In all walks of life there are personalities we just aren’t able to gel with and this is no less true in business. We can usually judge whether we are going to like someone or not within the first few moments of meeting them and in situations where the latter applies, it pays to have an exit strategy ready to implement so it’s possible to move swiftly along! However, it might just be the case that awkwardness in certain individuals makes them appear insincere and they just need to work on their own networking skills!
Venue doesn’t matter
This couldn’t be further from the truth! For a networking event to be a success, it’s all about location, location, location. How accessible is the venue? Is there parking? Is it comfortable with enough seats to accommodate everyone – and to accommodate social distancing?
Possibly most important of all – what are the refreshments like?
At the end of the day, it’s all about relationship building and not merely collecting contacts.
And there’s a simple truth in the saying that when it comes to developing a successful business, it’s not how many people we know that matters, it’s how many people know us.