Does participating in networking events work for your business, or does it seem like a big waste of time?
Most of us recognize that networking is considered a key component of any successful business. Business reps who regularly network claim that this tool is a great way to boost their company’s exposure and potential profits. So, how do you make it “work” for you?
The concept of “networking” adapts the purpose of nets used in the fishing trade to the business world.
Photo Credit: www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stroonn
By observing how a fish net functions, we can draw some surprising parallels that can benefit companies of all sizes—maybe even yours….
Except for the materials with which they are constructed, today’s fish nets are basically unchanged from those used for centuries on the seas. Modern fish nets are comprised of multiple pieces of rope or threads, usually a nylon or strong composite material, knotted together into a device that can snag fish, clams, etc., while allowing water and debris to flow out. Thinking of networking as a kind of net and noting how nets function will enable us to make these events work for our own company:
- A shared purpose. The net’s ropes and knots share a common purpose–to catch fish; similarly, the shared purpose of the various components of networking is to “snag” the attention of other businesses and to begin forming mutually beneficial relationships with them.
- Lots of moving parts. Just as a fish net is made up of numerous pieces of rope that form a flexible, interactive membrane, networking is comprised of numerous individuals and businesses that interact within a relaxed social setting.
- The moving parts are connected. The pieces of rope in a net are tied together for mutual support. In a similar way, during networking events, business reps find ways to connect with each other that will boost the bottom line for both companies.
- This device acts like a sieve. Just as the fish remain in the net after the debris flows out, networking enables you to collect company contacts that meet your specific criteria while those that don’t move on to interact with other reps.
- What affects one part affects the parts around it. Have you ever noticed that when one part of a net has a heavy load, the rest of the net stretches to accommodate it? In the same way, once businesses connect with other companies through networking and become long-term support systems for each other, they are willing to go out of their way to help their networking partners succeed.
By understanding how networking is meant to function, you can make it work for your own company. The objectives of networking are to initiate relationships with other businesses through casual conversation by: asking the reps about their business, seeking common priorities, and getting contact information and referrals. The company you happen to be talking with may not be a perfect fit, but that rep may know of a colleague or vendor that might be very interested in what your company offers. Get that referral.
In essence, you are taking the first step in building a mutually-beneficial support system for your company. Your business may need some of the products or services that a company you connect with provides. In return, your purchase of those resources boosts their profits. As both companies come to trust and rely on each other, you will be able to find more even ways to benefit both businesses, such as discounts and customer referrals.
You will notice that networking is not a forum for direct sales or marketing. Networking is an indirect way of promoting your business. Participants that try to push their products and services onto other reps soon realize that no one wants to talk to them. Being pushy backfires.
This does not mean that selling and marketing never occur at these networking events. It just means that these efforts take a back seat to relationship-building. As you connect with businesses and discover practical ways to build relationships with them, you will pave the way for sales down the road.
For more specifics on making Networking work for you, read our follow-up article: “How to Be Effective at Your Next Networking Event.” See the post on the sidebar.
Jinni Bradfield is a freelance business ghostwriter whose background in both education and advertising sales enables her to showcase a company’s mission, products and services, enhancing customer appeal. Over the past five years, she has written ad copy, articles, blogs and books for more than 100 happy clients.
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