Business networking is a restless animal that cannot be left alone. You’ve attended networking functions, collected business cards and set up your social media business profiles. So now what? It is important to understand that you need to work your network in order to make it work for you.
David Seinker, CEO of The Business Exchange, says, “Many entrepreneurs do not fully appreciate the value that networking can add to the success of their business. The majority of all the business that I have conducted in the past has been done through my extensive and highly influential network of contacts.”
Mastering business networking is not difficult as long as you bear the following points in mind;
Maintain Regular Contact
Business networking is used to leverage your personal and business contacts in order to bring in new and repeat business. It therefore goes without saying that people are a very important factor in networking so maintaining regular communication with your network is a key contributor towards making your network work for you. Draw up a monthly, quarterly and yearly schedule to ensure that you maintain regular contact with all members in your network.
Sincerity Above All
In all your interactions with your network it is important to be genuine and earnest. People will instinctively pick up if you are being insincere with them. Learn to relax and enjoy your interactions with your network. Informal meetings outside of the office can do wonders for breaking down stiff, formal attitudes. Meet at a coffee shop or for a quick lunch.
Recognise The Importance Of All Key Role Players
Never underestimate the power of junior employees in a prospect’s organisation. They may not be at management level but they may wield enough power to stop your business in its tracks! Establish who all the key role players are and build a professional relationship with them. This may include people such as procurement clerks, secretaries, finance staff, etc. Building their loyalty will ensure that you are informed of potential prospects very early on in the buying cycle.
Cultivate Proper Listening Skills
Many people lack proper listening skills and this is no different when it comes to business networking. By learning to ask the right questions instead of trying to hard-sell, you will uncover opportunities that your competitors may overlook. Your aim should be to uncover and understand your prospect’s needs. You can only do this by asking the right questions and listening to the answers.
Recognise When To Pitch
Although it is important to cultivate listening skills, you also need to learn to recognise the cues for when your prospect is ready to hear about your business. First establish a conversation with your prospect about their world before you bring your pitch into it. Build rapport first and your sales results will follow.
Have Your Sales Pitch Ready
Have a short business pitch prepared for when a prospect asks you for more information. Your pitch should focus on how your product or service can fix a problem or help accomplish a goal. Sell the benefits – not the features and listen for your prospect’s signal that they are ready to buy as this is often overlooked.
End Your Sales Pitch With A Call To Action
It is your responsibility to maintain the journey with your prospect and move them towards a sale. Ensure that every meeting ends with a call-to-action, whether it is for an order, a follow-up meeting, a trial period or a more in-depth presentation.
Ask for Referrals
Finally, once you have established a firm relationship with your prospect, never forget to ask for an introduction to other potential prospects, as a client who is satisfied with your level of service will generally never hesitate to give you a recommendation.