7- Steps to Effective Business Networking

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7- Steps to Effective Business Networking

For owner managers and SMEs, networking is probably the most effective and least expensive marketing method you can use to build your business, especially within your local area.

For some it can be daunting and there are many business owners and entrepreneurs who will say that they don’t like to network, or they haven’t seen the results.   Typically, we find that this can be because they don’t know how to do it or they may have unrealistic expectations about the results.

At Sterling, we love building networking groups and over the years have built up our knowledge on the potential for success through networking.  Here are some guidelines you can follow.

1. Choose the right venues. Not every Sterling group will be right for you. We encourage our visitors to come and experience a networking group before they join and to also visit other groups regularly to make sure they pick the one that suits them. There should never be any pressure to join a group and making sure you join the one that is comfortable for you is crucial.

2. Develop relationships. Networking is not about selling, but rather developing relationships that can lead to sales or referrals. People do business with those they know and trust and it can take time to build up that knowledge and trust. So get to know people and allow them to get to know you and your business.

3. Be prepared. Bring plenty of business cards, and be prepared to give them all out, not just to people you think will send business your way. Practice your 60 seconds so people know what you do, why you do it and who you do it for. And check out the other members in the room; see what they are up to so you can start a conversation.

4. Ask questions and listen. You don’t have to talk a lot about what you do in order to find potential customers. Rather, ask people about them and their business, listen carefully to find points of commonality that you can bring into the conversation.

5. Sit with people you don’t know. Sterling Networks has developed an effective meeting format. The engine room is at the heart of this and allows you to move around the room. Use this time to talk to people you know, but seek out people you don’t or guests to widen your network and meet potential connections.  

6. Give to get. Focus on what you can do for others, not what they can do for you. Perhaps you know someone who could use another member’s services. If you do, make the referral.

7. Follow up. If you make a good connection with someone, it is good practice to send them a note after the meeting. If it’s appropriate, send an article or some kind of information that they might find helpful. But don’t add them to your mailing list without their permission.

Networking is a process, not a one-off event. Take the time to make connections and develop relationships with people inside and outside the room. Be proactive and invite someone to a one-to-one so you can get to know one another better.

Remember that most Sterling Members are also looking for connections. Be bold and take a step into their world.

Start the conversation today as you just never know where it will lead.