Business Networking – How to Survive and Thrive

| July 28, 2016

Business Networking – How to Survive and Thrive

Article by Effie Cinanni

There are many people who dread business networking events.  The thought of entering a room full of strangers and having to strike up conversations leaves them feeling a little queasy.  So how do we overcome these feelings especially when we understand that networking can deliver so much value to a business?  For many organisations word of mouth and referral business are paramount to their success and networking in one form or another, has been a necessary tool for business survival for hundreds of years.

If you dislike networking, surviving and thriving at these types of events needs to begin with changing the way we view them.  When we change our perceptions of networking we begin to feel more comfortable engaging in it.

What is business networking?

When it gets broken down to the basics, networking is really about building relationships and connecting with others.  The key elements involved are: listening and talking to others with the aim of establishing connections and relationships based on common ground.  Adding value to a conversation by giving away great business tips, offering suggestions to help solve business problems or discussing a common business challenge are all ways to help achieve rapport and make new connections.

Here are some tips for effective networking:

Expect to give before you receive

Instead of focusing on establishing new business opportunities for yourself right away, think about being a ‘giver’, a ‘connector’ or ‘problem solver’ and focus on what you can ‘give’ during the conversation to help establish a relationship and build trust. When genuine connections are made it’s more likely that future business referrals and more introductions will follow.

Be genuine and ask questions

If you are authentic in your interactions, listen to others and are genuinely interested in their business challenges, this creates the right frame of mind for more focused networking.  By asking open questions and listening to others first, you can gather important information about solutions that might fit their business, it gives you the information you need to allow you to connect with the right people and decision makers.  If you see that another connection could be made, acting as a vehicle that brings the right people together can also create future benefits.  Just like doing a favour for someone often brings future rewards so does this type of ‘connective networking approach’.

Don’t be a pushy sales person

No one likes to be pushed into buying products and services. “Don’t be that girl or guy”; as humans, it is in our nature to run when someone chases us.  I believe the same rules apply when it comes to networking.  Remember to listen first and don’t push your products and services onto others. If they are interested in what you do and ask you about your products and/or services, respond to them as authentically as you can.  Use questions to gather information about their level of interest.  For example: “You mentioned that you are having trouble with your tax returns, will you be able to manage that on your own, or were you looking for some professional help with that?”

Link and connect people

By facilitating meetings and connecting people you will find that those business contacts will be more willing to reciprocate this action.  This behaviour is based on the ‘reciprocity principle’, which is a phenomenon in social psychology that suggests people will often repay back in kind what they receive.  When you connect and refer business to others this helps to build trust and mutual respect, it also means that the next time your business contacts find themselves talking to someone that could use your product or service they are more likely to repay the gesture and connect you with that business opportunity.

If you approach business networking from a ‘problem solving’ and ‘connective’ viewpoint you might find that networking comes a little more naturally and becomes less artificial and less difficult.

Happy business networking!

Effie Cinanni is Founder and Director of Small Chilli Marketing, a Melbourne based consulting firm specialising in marketing and communications for small business.  She is an Associate Member of the Australian Marketing Institute and a Certified Practising Marketer (CPM). She has experience across a range of industries including; IT & software, allied health, children’s services, real estate and professional services. Effie is degree qualified in Marketing & Finance and has worked in marketing and business consulting roles for over for 15 years.  Her experience encompasses all facets of marketing, including strategy, planning, digital, communications, branding, event management and online.