Most of us have had to engage in business networking at some point in our careers and will probably need to do so again. Perhaps you attend an early morning breakfast networking, are a delegate at an industry conference or you simply network with your colleagues and co-workers. Whatever type of networking you do, it’s an essential professional and personal skill for your career and business development.
While a few people enjoy networking, you’re not alone if the thought of it makes you feel really uncomfortable. It’s not easy to walk into a room full of strangers, strike up a conversation and turn that conversation into a long-term relationship. Even the guy who bounds in full of confidence is likely feeling a little hot under the collar.
Fortunately we have some really practical business networking courses which are designed to help you prepare properly and perfect your networking skills in a safe environment. We also have some great content on our blog about effective communication skills, all of which will make you a better networker.
Why should you invest in networking?
So, we have you covered when you’re in a networking situation, but the question we hear lots is ‘why should I invest in networking?’ Networking does cost money and time, so it’s easy to see why you may question the usefulness of networking and whether or not it’s a worthy business investment. There are so many great reasons to invest in networking and we’ve listed three below:
1 – Make Connections
Richard Branson said that, ‘Succeeding in business is about making connections’. Branson is talking here about connections between people, but also connections between ideas and inspiration. There’s no better way to connect with great like-minded people and generate new ideas than networking. You’re able to meet regularly with the shared goal of building relationships and helping each other grow, which pays huge dividends in the long term.
2 – Become a Better Listener
Of course it’s not just about making connections, it’s also what you do with those connections that matters. As an effective networker you should know how to ask great questions and listen actively so that you really hear what the person is saying and where they’re coming from. In doing so, you can spot opportunities and get really valuable feedback on your business. Effective questioning and listening is an incredibly valuable sales skill and something we also cover in our Principles of effective selling course.
3 – Perfect Your Pitch
Effective networking also requires you to present yourself and your brand really well. The simple act of introducing yourself over and over at different networking events is a brilliant way to get your elevator pitch just right. Practice makes perfect when it comes to crafting a great introduction, and networking is a brilliant practice ground. Use every new encounter to test different introductions, see how people respond and make a note of the questions they ask. Before long you’ll be pitch perfect!
ROI of Networking
When considering the actual Return on Investment (ROI) of networking, you simply need to keep in mind the old saying that ‘People Buy People’. The very fact that you have widened your network provides greater opportunities for new leads. Go into a networking situation with the intention of meeting great people and building lasting relationships (rather than just selling). In doing this you will find that it brings the reward of referrals long after the initial meeting takes place.
According to Robert Davis form the University of San Francisco, ‘people who participated in networking groups appeared to be above-average networkers, which resulted in more referrals and more clients’. Ivan Misner who is the Chairman of the much renowned networking organisation BNI, talks about this and more in his post on Forbes.com about the ROI of Networking.
Never Stop Networking
Although most networking events take place at a specific location and point in time, the addition of social media tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter ensure that you stay top of mind with your new found connections. Support them by commenting on their blog posts or retweeting them on Twitter. Make sure you drop an email to catch up once in a while. Many networking experts will tell you that the one-to-one follow up is crucial in converting those connections into customers. Social media, email and even the good old phone are brilliant ways of bridging the gap between exchanging business cards and ‘shaking hands’ on a deal.
Become a Better Networker with Ripley Training
As mentioned in the post we have two networking courses aimed at both internal and external networking. These courses will help you to master the art of networking now that you’ve decided it’s a great business investment. We also have a great range of sales courses which can help you question and listen effectively, pitch to perfection and negotiate a great deal when the time comes.