Small business networking is a very popular topic. Any small business owner, salesperson or consultant can find a multitude of small business networking groups to join. Participation in these groups can be very time-consuming.
Aside from formal small business networking groups, there’s the day-to-day activities of “expanding the network” with lunches and meetups for coffee. Never Eat Alone discusses this sort of activity at great length. If you follow the author’s advice, however, there will never be time when you are “off the clock.”
But is it worth it? Does networking work or is it a waste of time?
Directed networking, with applied skill, is definitely valuable. With my own company, other than repeat business and referrals, networking leads account for exactly 100% of our business.
The Important Questions
However, small business networking that is inconsistent with your goals and haphazard can definitely be a time-waster. It is very important to define, “What is small business networking? And further, “What will my small business networking accomplish?”
In non-profit circles, fundraisers have a colloquialism that is used to describe a visit with a prospect that doesn’t result in a gift.
No matter if the fundraiser “forgets” to ask for the gift or the prospect says no, or if the fundraiser spends a full day on a tour of the new facility and comes home empty-handed, the standard line is that, “We were engaged in prospect cultivation.”
While there is certainly a need to introduce any prospect to a project and enlighten them on it fully, it is easy to get into a frame of mind where every visit is “cultivation,” with nothing to show for the time and effort.
The same can be said for networking. Was that hour spent talking about the golf game really networking? Did you really need to talk with the pet groomer for 30 minutes? However, small business networking done correctly can be a very rewarding activity. It can develop leads, cultivate lasting relationships and net you the “in” you need to launch that new product or break into new territory.
What IS Correct Small Business Networking?
It Is Targeted
Prior to each meeting, get a hold of the list of attendees. Spend a few minutes Googling them. Find the ones that you need to meet and make a point to introduce yourself.
It Is Done With A Specific Goal In Mind
Why are you networking at all? What do you want to achieve? A new job? A sales lead? Knowledge or expertise in a field you know nothing about? Pick a goal and stay on it. If you find yourself off-track, review your goal for the meeting and reorient to it.
Be Respectful Of Time, A Precious Commodity
Of any commodity, time is the most precious. It cannot be saved in a bank for a later need, and when the minutes and hours are spent, they’re gone for good. Remember this to help maintain focus. When you do meet with people important to your project, they will sense that you are respectful of their time as well – vitally necessary for meetings with busy people.
Announcing A New Book
I have a close friend who has been named one of the “Top connectors” of his metropolitan area, and one of the “Top 100 people to know in business.” He has made a living by forming connections with and for others, including starting 6 successful companies and forming one of the largest networking groups in the city.
The book is called Stalking Tigers: Building Critical Relationships With the Big Cats of Business. It is being released as a series of booklets over the coming months, and the first booklet is being released today.
Stalking Tigers examines some of the common misconceptions about successful networking and puts the tools in your hands to become a master connector – in as short a time as possible. The first booklet is available as a free download directly from the Stalking Tigers website. Future booklets will be released every few weeks and will cost a few dollars each.
If you’ve ever wanted to increase the size of your network or get more out of your networking activities; or if you hate the subject altogether, I recommend giving the first booklet a try. Anyone can download it for free and without giving an email address by visiting stalkingtigers.com.