Why business networking is important

Posted by on Sep 28, 2016

Why business networking, specifically  Imbizo Networking, is important and how using the power of relationships in a business networking context can benefit your business.

 

How business networking can benefit your business

In the past the accepted method of selling was to cold-call. Unlike today when you can safely ignore phone numbers you don’t recognise and easily turn a blind eye to those “no caller IDs” back in the day, commerce was facilitated by phone. We had faxes, email and SMS. Instead of cold calling, you could send a message and, more than likely, you were going to get a response.

Fast forward to 2016 and the information saturated world we live in. I say saturated because there are so many things vying for our attention. If that wasn’t enough, the volume of information we have to contend with is staggering. For example there are over 2.5 million emails sent every second. Note I said second, not minute!

If cold calling is out, spam is definitely out – both SMS and email and there’s so much noise, how do we as business owners find meaningful work and prospects?

We use the power of relationships.

Specifically we come to Imbizo and build trusted relationships with fellow members. Then we leverage these relationships to meet new prospects, gain referrals and get new business. In his book “Power Relationships” Andrew Sobel interviewed hundreds of successful executives and found that most could identify between 25 and 30 key relationships that had made all the difference to their careers. The adage “it’s not what you know but who you know” certainly rings true in this case.

I’m going to share five ideas and thoughts on how best to build relationships and engage at Imbizo. I’m going to use quirky headings to help you remember what they are. There are more but I consider these the essential ones.

  1. It’s a contact sport
  2. Put your best foot forward
  3. What goes up
  4. Give first. And second
  5. It’s not over ‘til it’s over

It’s a contact sport

boxing-gloves-iconYou have to show up, engage and interact with people. Imbizos are held twice a month. Attend at least one. Remember you are building long term, sustainable, relationships not one night stands. We all know how those can end up. People will forget about you if all you hide away behind email and WhatsApp. I’ve seen many people come to Imbizo once or a few times and then disappear. These people claim Imbizo’s not for them or networking doesn’t work. Let me ask you this: “Would you like to go out for dinner with someone who never showed up.?”

Put your best foot forward

vans-flower-iconEven if you are not the JFK type asking what you can do for your country, you can’t be a wallflower. Make a point of interacting with everyone at an Imbizo. You never know who they know that can lead to business opportunities for you. I want to add something here about presentation too. Make the effort to look good. Your business is like a child. Would you want your son or daughter to go out with a dishevelled, dubious looking person? Of course not! The same applies here. Put yourself into the shoes of a prospective customer and ask yourself if this looks like something I’d want to be involved or associated with. I the answer is “no” then tweak it until you say “yes”. This applies to emails, websites, etc.

What goes up

air-balloon-iconThe next point is a continuation of the previous one: The elevator speech. We are all going to have an opportunity to practice one shortly, by the way. An elevator speech is that small window of opportunity to tell someone who you are, what you do and, most importantly, why you do it. Imagine you’re in a lift. The doors open and in steps the quintessential entrepreneur, Richard Branson. He looks you in the eye and says: “Hi, how are you. Tell me, what do you do?” How will you reply? An opportunity like this might come along once in never. It’s important to be well-rehearsed but don’t come across like a pre-programmed robot. Put some thought into what you are looking for ahead of time too.

Give first. And second

real-one-iconOne of Imbizo’s core principles is: “In giving, we grow.” This means it’s important to give before getting but especially before asking. Listen to your fellow members; see how you can assist them. Participate in random acts of kindness. Do things because you can, not because you expect something in return. Remember it’s all about the relationship.

It’s not over ‘til it’s over

checkered-flag-iconNetworking doesn’t end when an Imbizo does. Networking is on-going. Make sure you follow up with any new contacts and follow-through with any commitments made as soon as possible, after the event. Email (yes, now that they know who you are) your connections online, set-up appointments and continually engage where appropriate. Appropriate is good, stalker mode is not.

It’s about the farm

fruits-persimmon-iconRemember we spoke earlier about cold-calling? Business networking is not a face-to-face, cold-calling opportunity! Networking is about building long-term sustainable and meaningful relationships. Come to an Imbizo with your farmer’s hat on. Leave the spear at home or the office. Networking is more about the slower but more bountiful process of “farming” than it is about the quicker once off process of “hunting.”

I want to leave you with some words from Yogi Berra, the American baseball legend. He said: “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Make sure you know where you are going by integrating networking into your daily life. Build and nurture your relationships and watch your business start flourishing.

Matthew Green

About Matthew Green

Matthew is an educator, entrepreneur and speaker. His organisation, 3 Words, is a creative collective offering website design, graphic design, training, photography, mental and emotional well-being and writing. Matthew is passionate about supporting and enabling others and in addition to co-owning Imbizo Networking, a successful small business networking forum, he also runs Green Mountain, an organisation which supports social change through creativity. Contact Matthew – http://www.3words.co.za

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