Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Someone made me think about networking

As the Chapter Director of a BNI (Business Network International) group in Norwich, I was passed the contact details of someone who had shown interest in visiting and maybe joining our group. I sent out the appropriate invitation and received a reply that said they had spoken to most of our members at other networking events and they were not able to sell to them then, so there would be no point in joining. I sent them a polite (hopefully) reply explaining what networking is really about.

Yes there will always be an element of the hunter in us all at networking events, some events are more suited to it than others. Andy Bounds excellent book The Jelly Effect explains how to maximise this process well. He goes through the process of identifying your 'Big Fish' in the room and succeeding in securing a meeting later to discuss business opportunities.

However groups like BNI work on a different dimension. They are based on relationships. Understanding what your fellow members do, how they add value and their ideal target customer gives us the background knowledge we need to find them suitable prospective customers in our daily travels and maybe within our own client base.

To do this effectively we spend a great deal of time understanding each others business and gaining confidence and trust in their ability to fulfil. That's not a quick win. It takes time to build that sort of relationship, but once it's there is very sound and can be very lucrative.

So if you're just about to look at networking as a new form of marketing then make sure you understand how networking works before you blunder out there and think it's a waste of time.

Roy Gough of Alloy CRM helps businesses increase sales both on and off line.

No comments: