As any successful entrepreneur can confirm, progressing in business often requires the creation of opportunity. Creating opportunities for your career or enterprise to expand, grow and succeed necessitates a wealth of contacts. This means that successful business networking is absolutely central to professional growth and can even help to relieve personal burdens.
Good networking skills should not be confused with team-working abilities. Successful teamwork requires important skills such as coordination, critical evaluation and creativity. Networking, by contrast, is the discovery and establishment of connections between people with mutually beneficial interests. These connections don’t simply present themselves on a platter – indeed, the older you get, the more conscious effort it takes to meet others and form meaningful, reliable connections. Here are five essential elements of successful business networking.
1. The Personal Touch
Perhaps the most obvious aspect of networking is that the easiest way to establish meaningful relationships is to treat people as more than simply stepping stones in your own journey to success. Make a point of asking people how their work projects are coming on, and ensure that you commend them on any successes. Sincerity is vital or you risk being dismissed as an opportunist, but by demonstrating that you value others, key potential contacts will be far more willing to establish strong relationships with you.
2. Create a Foundation of Trust
All successful relationships are built on trust. When networking, both you and your interlocutor will be asking yourselves – even if only subconsciously – if you can trust this person to follow through on their promises. Do they have the integrity to do so even in adverse circumstances? Can they be trusted to work with me to sort things out should problems arise? Trust arises from experience with each other, and if it’s damaged or lost, that can result in irreparable damage to your relationship.
When networking, ask yourself how your expertise can be of value to the person that you wish to form a working relationship with. By offering everything you can – giving more information, time or advice than you receive and always going out of your way to help your professional contacts – you ensure that, even if you are occasionally unsuccessful, your efforts will be appreciated. Initially giving without expecting anything in return makes people remember your assistance and often leads to referrals or reciprocal gestures later on.
This one is straightforward enough. Successful networking starts by helping others to become aware of the professional advice, services and assistance that you have to offer. Go to conferences, meetings and events and make sure that everyone knows what you’re up to. Your aim in this is to become the person that everyone instinctively thinks of when someone asks them, “Do you know anyone who could…?”
5. Chase Those Leads
It happens all the time: everything is going swimmingly, promises are made to email information or make a phone call, and you part with a handshake. But the email or phone call never arrives. As well as following through on your promises, make the effort to check with your contact later that they did indeed receive the communication that you sent them. Showing sincere interest in other people’s projects and success helps to create a much deeper and stronger connection.
Allsquare are professional accountants in Edinburgh offering financial and business services to help small to medium companies with business growth strategies. For more information, call Allsquare today on 0131 343 1510.