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Networking Tips

The Failed Entrepreneur’s Networking Rules

The ability for entrepreneurs to network is critical. Whether it’s meeting like minded professionals, potential suppliers or generating leads, professional business networking skills are the key to unlock a referral based business.

It should be taught as a standard module at all Universities. What’s the use in having a double first if you are socially inept and unable to build relationships? For any would be entrepreneur my top five tips are as follows:

  1. Networking is about building meaningful professional relationships – don’t get a reputation for being a pushy salesman who simply uses networking as a front.
  2. Don’t rely on organised networking groups such as BNI or from your local Chamber of Commerce. Instead figure out who you want to meet and make a direct approach for a meeting or indirectly find out who they know that you know. Networking with the right people is key.
  3. Avoid ‘Speed Networking’ events like the worst of plagues! They are a complete waste of time, money and effort.
  4. Prepare a Networking Plan and set some key goals and milestones.  Don’t just let it drift along. Take control and follow your plan.
  5. Avoid ‘Chamber of Commerce’ networking events. In my final Chamber of Commerce event three out of the five at our table were representatives from well known retail banks. They were there for the free champagne, afternoon off and basically a good old fashioned jolly. The chances of you doing meaningful business with them are slimmer than a slim thing on a particularly slim day.
  6. Don’t fish from the same pond. In other words don’t stick to the same old networking habitats that you’ve frequented for the last few months. BNI was particularly bad for this, met lots of nice people but I could (and indeed have) do this at the local public house.
  7. If you enjoy football or any other sport (or even if you don’t!), find out if your local team has a business club or group associated with it. If you are in the Perth area I recommend you enquire about the St. Johnstone Business Club. I attended a number of their events and received a warm welcome and some new business contacts.

Networking contacts accounted for almost all of my sales, but to this day I know I could have done more. I broke my own rule by not creating a clear networking plan. I simply jumped from place to place without any real structure, but yet it still worked for me.

Just do yourself a favour though, make sure you can justify the time and energy involved in attending any networking event. Remember it’s about professional networking and building your contacts, it’s not about socialising for socialising’s sake.

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Categories: Networking