We sat down with business coaches, Sue Gee and Dave Verburg, to talk about the power of a network and how to successfully connect with your target industry.
The best place to begin when talking about the power of a network and building a network that works well for you and your business, is to discuss the types of networks we create. The simplest way to divide network types is into three groups: firstly, there is your immediate support network, the people you go to for personal advice or to blow off steam with. Then we have a business network, those you may go to for business information about the industry, legal procedures, or changing rules. The final network is what we call your referral network. This is the group of contacts you have who recommend you and your company to their network and in return, recommend people to you. Planning your networking conscientiously and being aware of who knows whom means you can identify and fill any gaps you may have in certain industries or type of people.
There are often different schools of thought in how people value a business’ output and methods. Every person will have a different tick list for a company to check off before they engage with them. Many markets are over-saturated. The best way to separate ourselves from the rest of the competition is to be honest and authentic about who we are and what our intentions are. In the context of networking, people are not necessarily interested in us as people. What they want is results that they hope we can give them. First and foremost, when you want to engage with someone, you want to be a person who can show a new connection that you can deliver on the results they want. You should focus on the outcomes, on what you can deliver for your clients, and how your client will be better off when you are involved.
Understanding the key target is an absolute must.
Who are you marketing yourself and/or your business to? How do you appeal to them? Where do they network and who do they network with?
This is crucial. One of the major challenges that people in business worry about is having the time to network. it is a situation where it is best to work smarter, rather than harder. You can either spend your time trying to find twenty clients or you can spend your time finding the one person who is already working with twenty clients and companies but doesn’t or can’t provide the service/product that you have. Doing your research beforehand and entering a networking opportunity with clearly set goals and intentions will prevent you from wasting too much time. If you know where your target clients or the people who work with them are, you will know exactly what events you need to attend and prepare accordingly.
Networking should help you get a clear message to the right people and will enable them to engage with you. However, try not to fall into the sales pitch pothole. People have a tendency when networking to launch into a sales pitch the moment they are introduced to someone new. What we should be doing is learning about the other person, building trust and a rapport instead of instantly trying to sell them something. Ask the right type of questions, so you can find out how you can help somebody or if you can introduce someone else who can help them.
Networking requires confidence.
Whether you are an extrovert who has missed face-to-face events or an introvert who found comfort in virtual spaces, you need to be comfortable in your own shoes. You need to be sure of who you are and what your business/industry is. It is about building a positive, confident, and knowledgeable mindset. If you really do struggle, set yourself a target; how many people do you want to introduce yourself to? Is there a particular person for business you want to engage with? Enter the situation with that defined goal and begin expanding your targets once you become more comfortable. Practise makes perfect.