In a word, YES!
But like with everything in business the results very much depend on the on going effort you put it.
It’s very easy to jump from network meeting to network meeting, throwing a few business cards at people and making polite conversation but only visiting each one once. Chances are if you’ve taken this approach you haven’t seen much in the way of results and this may have left you disheartened and feeling like networking is a waste of time.
The problem with this approach is you may be meeting more people because you are going to a variety of different meetings but by only attending a meeting once you aren’t getting past the polite conversation/introduction stage, so no one really gets to know who you are or what you do and, most importantly, they haven’t had the chance to build up any level of trust in you as a person and your services.
The first piece of advice I would give anyone who is starting their networking journey (or trying to salvage it) is to find a community that works for you and focus your time and energy on that. By doing this you can really get to know your fellow members and they can get to know you and those all important relationships can be built and collaboration opportunities formed. It’s also worth remembering that you’re not just networking with the people in the group so don’t think of it as only seeing the same people each time. Every single one of those people will also have external networks of their own and if they have really gotten to know and trust you they will be much happier to recommend you to their own business contacts, friends and family.
My next piece of advice is one that our members hear me say time and time again but it is probably the most important and that is USE THE TIME BETWEEN MEETINGS TO CONTINUE BUILDING THOSE RELATIONSHIPS. Try not to just attend the meetings each week or month and then forget about them in between. Follow up with the people who attended each time whether they were fellow members or guests. 121s are integral to successful networking so try to catch up with as many people in between and learn more about how you can help each other.
Finally, remember that this is a two way street. Don’t expect people to use, recommend and generally support your business if you are not willing to do the same for others. When you are listening to each person’s one minute make a note of who their ideal client is and think about whether you know someone who can benefit from their services. Likewise when your family and friends mention to you that they are looking for a certain service, think about whether there is anyone in your networking group that you can recommend to them. Even simple things like engaging with someone’s social media posts can really help to increase their visibility. So if you have no one to recommend them to just yet there are other actions you can take to support them.
Networking shouldn’t just be something you do because you feel you have to but something you do because you recognise the value that it brings your business, and like with most good things, this means that you must be realistic about the time it will take to build those relationships. When you find the right community for you be prepared to put the groundwork in and, depending on how much you commit to it between meetings, this process could take anything from a few months to a year, but by following these tips and treating networking as an important part of our business I promise you will reap the rewards.
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