Creating a contact network, keeping it sharp and constantly growing is the key to the success of many entrepreneurs. This is achieved by participations in conferences, business lunches, congresses, networking groups, professional associations, among others. Being present at important events to hear, chat, question and, above all, meet more people.
What drives us to take this type of initiatives is a great will to make our business grow. However, the way we do it is not always efficient, and often leads us to give up easily and to classify Networking as "it's not for me" or "I don't have time for this..."!
Imagine a room with a group of motivated businessmen/businesswomen, entrepreneurs. If we ask how many among them want to sell their products or services, I believe they would unanimously agree. However, if we ask how many are willing to purchase the products or services of those present in the room, their willingness will diminish drastically. This is the main point about Networking: it's about fostering relationships, dedicating time and energy for them to grow and bear fruit. We shouldn't go directly into sales mode! Establishing visibility and building credibility before trying to achieve profitability is the secret to keeping a "contacts network" in constant growth.
Sometimes, we try to skip over visibility and credibility to reach profitability more quickly. Let's say that it's a premature solicitation, which happens a lot, especially on social media. There must be a true connexion or you must have helped someone before asking for something. People say that it never hurts to ask, but they are wrong. You can be inopportune if you ask too early, and you can close a door that could have been important for the growth of our activity.
To successfully create a Network that will lead to business opportunities, we have 5 essential points that help foster good relationships:
- "How can I help?": fundamental question to open the door for those who are gathered with us! If we start a conversation talking about ourselves, our business, not giving the other speaker room, we are explicitly showing that we are focused on ourselves. But the reality is that networking is a two-way street: me and the other person. We both have the same importance.
- Knowing how to listen: listening to the experience of the person before us is elementary. The experience, the story, what they do, how they do it, what they want, what they need.
- Introducing yourself without fear: many of us are not used to talking about our activity, or even about ourselves. It is, however, important to show consistency, clarity and focus. Build up the courage, but never before preparing yourself for the contact; the first impression is very important.
- Earning credibility: not meeting expectations - not keeping explicit and implicit promises - can kill a blooming relationship.
- Persistence: Networking is not something that bears fruit from one day to the next. It's something that must be built throughout time and that requires a lot of persistence. Keeping in touch is of the essence to avoid "fading into oblivion" and to classify the time that was already invested as something positive.
In 2020, the usual face-to-face meetings were interrupted due to the current world pandemic situation. However, even if it's not possible to go to the usual places to interact face to face with other people, attend meetings or social events, the online boom allowed us to act, build and amplify the contacts network.
Virtual platforms have replaced meeting rooms, which allows us to travel around the world at the speed of a link. This allows us to meet, contact, explore a world of opportunities that was considered as a great difficulty a year ago due to the concept and prejudice that a business must create new opportunities!
A lot of people say they don't have time for networking. Well, now we have time! As the saying goes "the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but the second best time is today". It's not too late to start building a network now!
Chief Operating Officer CASCAIS