Making Networking Work For You and Your Business

Here at Lancashire Business Growth Ltd (you might know us as ActionCOACH Bolton) we have been using networking as one of our main lead generation strategies since we started the business four years ago. It has consistently provided us with the best quality and consistent lead generation of all our marketing strategies so we wanted to share some great tips with you.

What is networking?

Well according to one dictionary definition it is “the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts”  and if done well, networking can be used to fuel business growth for your organisation. Networking allows you to build up a group of business and / or personal contacts who you can help and who can help you.

Most commonly, networking takes the form of physical face to face or online meetings. There are other forms of networking too. LinkedIn is an online networking tool. There are also other specific websites such as Lancashare that bring businesses and individuals together in specific interest groups. For the sake of this article, we are focusing on those networking groups who bring people together in virtual and face to face meetings.

What are your goals?

Before you begin, think carefully about what you want to get out of networking. Networking isn’t for you if you want instant gratification and to walk away from a meeting with orders for your product and service. It is a medium term lead generation strategy so bear that in mind when setting your goals.

Most networking meetings allow you the opportunity to talk about you and your business, but you can’t possibly effectively learn enough about your fellow guests in the short time you have at a meeting to understand if they need what you have, and if you just try to ‘sell’ to them, you will become very unpopular very quickly. It’s a bit like asking someone to marry you the first time you meet.

So if the goal isn’t to walk out with an order what should it be? Well if networking is about making and developing connections, the natural next step is to arrange a follow up meeting, sometimes referred to as a 121 meeting, with one or more of the networking guests at the meeting you attend. You can arrange this on Zoom, at yours or their office or at a neutral venue such as a coffee shop. I would always try to arrange the meeting at their office if you can as you will learn more about them and it shows you are willing to make the effort.

So, set yourself a goal to have a specific number of 121 meetings arranged by the end of the networking meeting. How many is up to you.

Some more formal networking groups make it a priority for you to arrange those follow up 121 meetings as they are so important to making networking work for you.

Your Networking Conversations

Depending on the type of networking event you attend, you may have to walk in to a room and join in with an existing group conversation, otherwise you risk being left stood at the side of the room talking to no-one. Get yourself involved and strike up a conversation. Everyone will be happy to chat to you.

At other events, you will be sat around a table, or a Zoom room. You will get the opportunity to do a ‘pitch’ usually around 60 seconds about you and your business. Really spend some time beforehand scripting this and practising so when you present your introduction to you and your business, it comes across as natural. Speak relatively slowly and very clearly. I’ve heard some speakers where they either spoke so fast or mumbled you couldn’t even tell what the company was called.

The ‘pitch’ should include your company name, where you are, how you help your clients and how the others in the room can help you best. If you are looking to be introduced to potential clients then be as specific as you possibly can about the clients you are looking for. Personally I would also always include that you are looking to book a 121 with someone in the room too.

If you are speaking to someone casually at a networking event remember that questions are the answer. Make it about them. Ask questions about them and their business. Really listen to the answers. Be interested in them and not in how you can sell to them. I really can’t stress this enough.

Local Networking Groups

If you are looking for local networking groups based in the north west then here is a list of a few great north west based networking groups.

Monthly Networking – The Business Network Central and East Lancashire – https://www.bncel.co.uk/

Run by the amazing Karen Tems, a master connector of people, the Business Network has monthly face to face meetings and also has an online meeting and drop-in every month too. With over 100 members from throughout central and East Lancashire you are guaranteed of having some great conversations as well as lovely food. Visit the website and get yourself along to a meeting too.

Fortnightly Networking – BoB Club North West – Business over Breakfast – https://www.bobclubs.com/region/north-west

The best fortnightly referral based networking group in the north west, run by the fabulous Tracy Heatley, BoB Club has groups running throughout the North Westand is actively looking for new members in specific sectors. Click the link for the website, find a group near you and book on. We are a member of BoB Club Ramsbottom so come along and say hello.

Weekly Networking – BNI – https://bni.co.uk

If you are looking for a weekly formal referral based networking group then BNI could be for you. With lots of local networking meetings around the country, BNI’s motto is ‘givers gain’ meaning that the more members give to the group the more they are likely to benefit. We are members of BNI Venture focused on local businesses in the Blackburn and Darwen area. Join a meeting for free and say hello.

There are lots of other networking groups out there. If you run a networking group and would like to be included in this list then please drop us a line.

 

Finally if you want to get better with your networking then Tracy Heatley, who runs BoB Club North West also has another company called Better Networking.If you want to supercharge your networking, become a networking ninja and get your networking producing effective professional contacts then have a look at Tracy’s website https://www.better-networking.co.uk/