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27 June 2024

Networking: Why is it important and how can you make it work for you?

Networking: Why is it important and how can you make it work for you?

With the multitude of social media platforms, online meeting apps, widgets and ever-improving smartphones, (not to mention the after-effects of COVID), it’s easy to see why physical networking could be on the decline. We asked Executive Director Lily James what importance, if any, she placed on the power of networking.

“There is no doubt in my mind, that networking is valuable in most professions. But, for a sales or recruitment role, it is absolutely essential,” says Lily.

Why does networking work?

“Networking is a fundamental aspect of professional life, and your approach should align with your personal goals,” says Lily.  “The right connections can help you grow in your current role and allow you to explore new opportunities.  Engaging in the right conversations with the right people can introduce you to new business partners, both suppliers and customers and provide invaluable insight into ow your business or role can improve.” Lily gave us eight essential must-dos to make networking work well.

  • Be prepared with the essentials

Make sure you have the essentials to hand. Business cards are a must, but it’s also a good idea to have some sales literature (leaflets or brochures) about your business that you can give to people who show an interest. At worst you can leave a few behind for people to browse through later. A name badge is also a great idea; many networking events hand these out automatically but take one of your own just in case with your logo and name on it.

  • Be the best guest

Don’t be a wallflower. Networking events are for meeting people so be prepared to introduce yourself even when nobody asks. Position yourself in the middle of the room so it’s easy for people to approach you and for you to approach others: if you don’t work the room, you’ll struggle to create any opportunities. Be open and friendly when speaking to people, and if you see someone sitting alone, go and say hello.

  • Set a realistic goal

A networking event is not just social gathering – you are there to accomplish a goal. Set yourself a target, such as the number of people you want to talk to or be introduced to. Or focus on speaking to a person who is your ideal potential customer.

  • Don’t be ruled by a rigid agenda

Your key goal here is to develop strong relationships – so don’t be ruled by a rigid agenda and prepare to be flexible to interests of others. You’re not there to do business, merely to engage with potential contacts and create solid connections. Your only agenda should be a set number of people to talk to and your objective is to get their business cards and potentially do business with them in the future. Avoid business proposals and sales pitches; those are for a separate meeting.

  • Talk and listen, listen

Two ears, one mouth, as they say. You’ve got to talk to people – but you’ve also got to listen to people, otherwise, you won’t know whether that person is the right prospect to be talking to and connecting with. Ask yourself: “Do I really need this person’s business card or does he or she have nothing to do with my objective?” Listen and learn. Yes, it may include some small talk, but it's worth it to find valuable new connections. You’ll also make better connections with people if you let them talk; most decent people will always allow you time to speak.

  • Don’t talk to too many people

Building good relationships you can do business from can take a long time to establish. It’s much better to have a few meaningful conversations where you ‘click’ with someone than having loads of brief chats and making little or no impression.

  • Make notes
Unless you’ve got a super-powered memory, remembering faces, names and businesses can be challenging, so it’s a good idea to make notes when you collect business cards. This will help fix in your head who you’ve spoken to and make the follow up conversation, email or meeting much more straightforward.
  • Follow up

Most crucial part of networking, is the follow up. Connect on LinkedIn and send them an email to make sure they remember who you are and what you do. It will make the next networking conversation easier and more productive. If there’s no follow up within a couple of days, you’re undermining the hard work you’ve already put in. Doing this also makes it easier to remember who you’ve spoken to and when.

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