Networking is absolutely critical to the success of any business. After all, the two most valuable resources for companies of any industry are projects and people, which includes clients as well as employees. Given that you’re now highly familiar with your respective industries, it’s safe to assume that you have a long list of projects under your belt, so the next important step is maximizing the value of your other resource – people.
One of the best ways to increase your business relationships is through networking. But of course, just like any part of the job, this process also has big challenges. Let’s look at the most challenging aspects of networking, and the best practices in dealing with these events.
As a business owner, you probably have multiple strategies in mind with regards to acquiring new clients and forming connections. In truth, however, that’s just a small part of the picture. The bigger part and real challenge is maintaining these relationships. In a previous McKinney blog post, we mentioned how many employees – even those who are in top management positions – can get distracted by the thought of securing commissions or more commonly, getting ahead in their careers. But if you take the best interests of all the parties involved at heart, it leads to building trust and stronger connections. If you are constantly linked to a wide network, previous clients may even send new prospective clients to your firm, giving everyone in your team more chances of growing your business.
It’s worth noting that maintaining connections, especially with long-time partners, doesn’t necessarily require a great deal of time and devotion. For example, you can ask someone in your team to send a message or a small present on a client’s birthday. Simple gestures show that you’re willing to go out of your way for the other person.
The same can be said for reconnecting with a person you’ve lost touch with over the years. It’s advisable to reach out every once in a while to some former peers or clients because Fast Company explains these people now have more experience like you and they may give you ideas or new network opportunities which can help you grow your company further.
Mastering how to listen
Conversations are at the core of running any kind of business, especially sales-oriented companies. Being talkative is perfectly normal to be able to sell products or services, but listening is a far more vital skill as it allows you to be on the same page as your client or employees. At the end of the day, everything gets a lot easier when both sides are perfectly aligned.
A good way to practice listening skills is by casually mingling with your team. Try taking them out for coffee. The laid-back atmosphere will provide a conducive environment for you to easily pay attention to the things being said and to keep conversations flowing. An article by Zillow advises to be patient as well and don’t interrupt when someone’s talking. Your companions will appreciate the courtesy even more, which contributes to an effective network.
Nonstop learning process
The hardest challenge about networking is that it’s a never-ending learning process. There will always be someone who knows a lot more than you no matter how long you’ve been in the industry. Even CEOs have role models. Accepting that fact means that you’re open to continuous improvement.
Attend professional events to get in touch with all sorts of people in your field. You can talk to someone whom you view in high regard or another company owner and ask the person about some best practices in their company. If you’re relatively young, you may also find a mentor whom you can invite out regularly so you can learn other tricks of the trade. Remember to keep your mind open and try to understand not just your end goals but the whole process. A post about networking from Menlo Coaching states that you should concentrate not only on what is being taught but how it is being taught. By knowing the fundamentals behind each concept, you’re going to be able to formulate your own ideas and solutions, which you can then apply to achieve more success.
The best part of all is that you can even share your wisdom with other people in your organization or your apprentice if you’re a mentor yourself.
Exclusively written for McKinney Capital & Advisory