Here at the-Coaching Blog-run by Gerard O’Donovan, our aim is to constantly bring value to those seeking to improve their lives. Therefore we have a policy of publishing articles and materials by guest authors whom we value and appreciate. Today’s guest author is Phil Bedford (UAE).

Imagine the scenario

The board room door closes, the manager says “what are we going to do?  Sales are down, marketing budgets have dropped and we need clients or we will have to let some of you go. What can we do that we are not doing already?”  

The team starts to mumble and someone offers “Well, how about Networking”.  

Reading this, many of you may begin to navigate the emotions that the team members go through. Some think “great idea I love it”, some think ‘tried that, it didn’t work”, some people break into a sweat “I don’t know how and it scares me” or “I didn’t even think of it, what is it? Is that when I fix my computer cables?”

The above is a real scenario. I have been in that room and I think many of you will have also faced similar situations. If not in a board room, then in conversation with yourself when you are thinking of how to get clients. Networking is one of our fundamental human abilities. Still confused? What if I called it Relationship Building for the benefit of yourselves, others and society?  

We have been doing it since the stone-age, but in recent times, many people have simply got lost and replaced the relationship aspect with “cold calling” or “face to face selling”.

I remember one of my first bosses saying to me. “Phil, go to this event and network, tell everyone what you do, get as much business as you can or get as many business cards as you can and then follow up with them, get meetings and then close them”. This rather aggressive and unfortunately ineffective strategy is what prevails in the minds of most people who try to network.  It’s no wonder people do not enjoy being on the receiving end of this strategy nor in many cases being the deliverer. It’s tough, it’s uncomfortable and it is largely ineffective. You annoy more people that you can ever convert and you may even alienate yourself in future events and damage your brand.

It is worth mentioning here that some people are lucky with the above strategy, but it tends to be the exception and not the norm and it is often once in a while. They could be even more successful if they learned to master the skills. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

The secret is to approach a networking group like you are trying to build a new circle of friends. We build relationships by helping people, finding commonalities and listening to them.   How far would we get if we walked up to a stranger and said “Hi, buy me a drink and pay for my meal”. The networking event is actually the first step in the process of building business relationships that could convert into business, but could also grow into information and support resources for you. This does take time though and so it’s better to think of networking as investing in a high-interest bank account where you can only draw once you have made deposits and allowed it to grow, not a slot machine.

Imagine you are the world’s most friendly relationship detective:

  • Ask more about them then you talk about yourself
  • Ask digging questions that show interest (and be sincere)
  • Think of other people they could be connections to
  • Ask more personal questions about what they do when they are not working
  • Be clearly able to articulate what you do in about 20 seconds

We can network anywhere, anytime is not a 9 to 5 activities and does not have to have a big sign saying “network here”.

  • What are we doing in our lunch break?
  • What do we do for hobbies?
  • Who is in our social circle, friends, family?
  • Who is the person you bump into the shop each week?
  • Do we ever get to know our grocer and his goals and challenges?
  • Who else does our hairdresser, or Personal trainer know?

Networking also occurs when we are with existing clients, competitors, suppliers, our own staff. When people know more about what we do and us. When they begin to care about us then we can also start to generate referrals or leads from these sources. Could there be more opportunities here to be developed?

Still, don’t believe me how powerful it is? Then do a study of all your current clients and where they came from.  90% of businesses will agree that a very significant part of their new client base is gained through relationships. One of the most important business tips you will ever get is “if it’s working well, do more of it”

For bigger business who has always had a significant marketing budget, for CEO’s who have always had sales teams to do the sales for them the thought of networking strategically can be alien and just a nice extra. It is, however, a significant and largely untapped resource. For smaller business owners and one-man bands such as coaches, soloprenuers and small businesses the ability to leverage this cost-effective and abundant resource could be the difference between survival and hitting your dreams or going back to the rat race.

For a final reality checks take a look at the nearest person to you right now, it could be a stranger it could be your partner. Most people know up to 150 people well, and have access to 2000+ through social media. Could they be introducing you to your dream clients if you had the relationship with them and they were willing to?   

My final tip is that strategic networking is a science and if you wish to do so effectively and efficiently it is worth learning how to do it.  Most people know just enough to get them in trouble. We would never do dental surgery on ourselves but we could always try.

About Phil Bedford

Phil Bedford is a seasoned business owner who has built his career in both the UK and Dubai. He specialises in relationship marketing and is the founder of rebelnetworker.tv. Read the book: https://www.amazon.com/KISS-Rebel-Unleash-business-without/dp/1784521132.’

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