Business networking is fantastic for your career and your personal development. It can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, giving you greater awareness about the abilities you already possess and areas in which you can improve. By observing other people who are actively networking, you can also avoid the pitfalls of negative networking, and learn how to emulate others who naturally build better business relationships. Networking effectively is an excellent skill to have as it can help build up confidence and improve your communication skills. So let’s look at some of the secrets of business networking.
Use your skills to gain greater self-confidence
Networking can push some people out of their comfort zone, so starting with a simple SWOT analysis to see where your strengths and weaknesses lie, can help you understand which areas you need to work on before and during the event. Seeing your skills and qualities listed on paper, can increase your confidence, and help you learn to communicate these to other people. Think about the accomplishments you have made in your career or business and articulate these to colleagues and contemporaries. It isn’t boasting to highlight your achievements, you are simply outlining the facts.
How networking enhances your communication skills
When you are involved in your business on a daily basis it can be hard to see it from the perspective of those that operate outside of it. Create an ‘elevator pitch’; a 20 to 30 second persuasive summary of what your business does and its core values. You also should not assume that people will understand any jargon you use in your field. Keep your jargon out of your business summary. This is an excellent way to hone in on what the important aspects of your career and business are, and how to share these in a concise way without straying away from your main objectives.
Active listening is also a very important part of good communication, so stay focused and interested in the answers people give you. This way, you can ask insightful questions in response. This will help you build a strong rapport with others. Remember to ask open questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. Require the person to elaborate further about themselves and their business. Come up with a few conversation starters that center around business and keep your body language neutral and friendly. Watch for people’s nonverbal cues, as they may want to wrap up a conversation but are not sure how. Create a few polite lines that you can use when you want to slip away from a conversation and work others in the room. It can help to practice first by role-playing with colleagues, friends, and family.
Opportunities for friendships and business ambitions
When you tell people about your business be sure to remain genuine to your experiences. This helps build your credibility. Often people that attend networking events will be working in the same or a similar field to you, so you will often have much in common. You may have been to the same places, met the same people, and come up against the same difficulties in your work. This is a great base to start getting to know someone better.
Business networking can also help you achieve ambitions for your business too, by making contacts that can help your business grow. Not only can you establish avenues for sales and marketing, you may also find yourself meeting attendees at a networking event that inspire you to develop your business in different ways. This is especially important if your business is small or you are a sole trader, as you may have limited interactions with people that aren’t direct competitors who are also working towards similar goals as yourself.
Preparation for self-improvement
Take a good supply of up-to-date business cards and any easily held or foldable marketing materials. If you take large, bulky booklets and leaflets along; chances are they won’t be carried around by people for the whole event and will likely be discarded. A little shameless self- promotion isn’t always a bad thing and is actually recognized as a leadership quality. If you are reluctant to schmooze at a networking event you could organize one yourself. Find yourself a suitable venue and make sure to add your business name and logo to all marketing materials. Being an attendee at a networking event gives you the opportunity to build relationships with lots of people from various businesses, but being the event organizer, means that everyone that attends will become a solid contact for your business and people will be schmoozing you for the entire event instead.
Business networking is not just about making money. Many business people that are successful did not start out with the confidence to network easily. By putting themselves out of their comfort zone, they obtained the skills needed to build business relationships; which have helped their businesses grow. The opportunities networking offers to your personal development can make for a more confident you. It can also help take your career to the next level.