Business networking has changed greatly over the years, vacillating between in-person and online event and platforms, but the goals, as well as the benefits of business networking, remain the same.
What are the goals of business networking?
I’ll start by pointing out that the cornerstone of the network you build should be one of sharing and support. That is your primary goal. Everything else flows from these.
The first order of business, perhaps quite obviously, it to meet others within your space, and to make introductions for others. Meet and be met. The key is making network expansion and nurturing a daily routine.
Let me point out here that meeting those outside your own business space is also encouraged, since we frequently have need for products and services to run our businesses, and knowing people in those spaces helps us make better choices when the need arises.
Learn about the work others do
The best way for us to add value for the people we meet is to make specific mental notes during our conversations with them. Here’s a list of things you should learn about the people you meet while networking:
- The type of work they do
- The projects they’re working on
- What their needs are
- Who you know that they should also
- Conferences they attend
- Courses or certifications they’re working toward or have recently completed
- Other people or organizations they work with
- How you can be of assistance (e.g. introductions, information, resources, etc.)
Your ability to be of service to your connections depends on having this information. In addition, their responses may indicate to you that this is a relationship you wish to develop, which leads to the next goal of business networking:
Start new relationships and nurture existing ones
Not everyone you meet will be able to assist you in reaching business goals. That’s OK. Your purpose isn’t to “collect” your own personal band of helpers. That would be short-sighted and self-centered. Many of the people you meet in your travels will become friends and sources of tremendous support. Never discount the impact one person can have on your life.
If you stick to the goal of learning about the work others do, you’ll have no trouble starting new relationships. In a short time, you’ll have a good handle on who people are and what they need. Rapport is built on the genuine interest you take in that which is important to others. Fellow networkers will appreciate you as someone who truly cares about their success.
It’s also vitally important to touch base periodically, with existing connections. It lets them know you haven’t forgotten about them and communicates the value you place on your relationship.
Now would be a good time to ask about the outcome of a project you know they were working on. Did they achieve the certification they were working towards? How’d that keynote address go? Catch up on things just as you do with friends and family.
Find out what they’re currently working on and if there’s a way you can offer assistance. Recall the connections you’ve made since your last conversation and if any introductions might be warranted. It’s also OK to ask for their advice on something, or if they can give you a referral for whatever it is you need.
What are the Benefits of Business Networking?
Discovery of resources
Getting pointed in the right direction is one of the greatest benefits of business networking. It could mean finding that elusive webmaster who seems to work SEO miracles, or hearing of an organization in your space that somehow fell under your radar. The resources you discover through word of mouth referral within your network will save you time and money.
Get invitations from others
If you genuinely take interest in the work others do, and act on what you learn by helping your connections achieve their goals, you’ll quickly gain the reputation as a servant-leader and connector. People will come to like and trust you. The natural byproduct will be invitations to events, committee and board positions, and speaking engagements.
Opportunities to collaborate
As you become known as a likable, trustworthy connection, more people will want to work with you. Be alert to collaborations that make sense and reach out to those you think would be open to joint ventures. Your reputation as a trustworthy business connection will at least get people to hear your proposal, and just may open the door to an exciting new project!
One final note: It’s interesting how business relationships work. The more you seek others out, the more you become sought out. The more help you offer, the more help is offered. The more you give, the more you get. Networking is an exercise in give and take. Know when to give, and when to receive. If your expectation is always the latter, your relationships will wither and die as connections learn your true motives. Practice the former, and you’ll be rewarded with a strong network of business connections and maybe even lifelong friends.