What is networking? Guest blog from Confident Ladies

I would like to thank Jane from Confident Ladies for writing our guest blog this week.

Claire Young a Finalist in The TV series ‘The Apprentice’ was asked by a journalist recently, “If she had one piece of advice for someone starting in business what would it be?”  Her answer was, “To get 50 free business cards printed, go off to a networking event and talk to people”

So what are the advantages, what is ‘Networking’ and how do you actually go about it?

Did you know that up to 70% of new business is gained through recommendation and word of mouth.  The power of networking comes from the fact that behind every person you meet at an event there are hundreds of potential contacts that they know and may introduce you to. Most will only do this, regardless of how fabulous your business is, if a. They like you and b. They trust you.

As the old saying goes ‘It's not what you know, but who you know.’

The thought, for some, of going into a room full of people and talking to strangers is daunting to say the least but a good Networking group will make you feel comfortable and included. The other members attending will have had the same fears (guaranteed) on their first visit. I always feel it is a good idea to have a few questions ‘up your sleeve’ to ask if and when you find yourself having to speak to someone else. Questions such as ‘What type of business do you run? How far have you come to get here? What made you decide to start your own business?  These types of question let other tell you about themselves; which is the key to networking!

Just like friendships, networking is a mid to long term strategy that requires commitment and patience. Don’t just go along to a couple of events and expect to walk away with a small handful of clients from them. You need to get to know others and show more of an interest in them than ‘sell’ yourself to be effective. Networking is all about building relationships so that others feel comfortable either hiring you themselves or recommending you to their network of contacts. Always wait to be asked to tell people what you do.  Some networking groups even have a space in their timetable for everyone to do what’s called their ‘Elevator pitch’ if this is the case then use this time to tell others about you and let them ask you about it later.

I can hear you saying, “What is an Elevator Pitch” well imagine you’re in a lift with one more or more people and one of them says, “What is it you do?” You need to answer him or her before the lift stops and so that they get out of the lift knowing exactly what it is your offering. Its takes work and practice to perfect.

This might help to start you off - The five W's- The first step is to develop answers to the following questions:

What does your company do? (For example, begin your answer with "We provide.")

Whom does your company do it for? (For example, begin your answer with "For small and midsized healthcare providers.")

Why do they care? Or, what’s in it for them? (For example, include in your answer "so that they can," "who can no longer afford," or "who are tired of.")

Why is your company different? (For example, begin your answer with "As opposed to" or "Unlike.")

What is your company? (For example, begin your answer with "My Company is insurance.") 

At any networking event big or small you will meet people; some groups even give you a list of attendees and their contacts. Don’t waste this opportunity, keep in touch and if you say you are going to do something for someone do it as soon as is possible. Remember, you are trying to build a good relationship, letting someone down isn’t the way to go about it.

Working for yourself can be isolating particularly if, like me, you have been used to having lots of colleagues around you day to day. Networking can fill the social gap of working for yourself too and what better way than to socialise within a positive environment with a group of talented and supportive people a great way to combat that feeling of isolation. 

Kind Regards

Jayne Twiddle (Director)

     Twitter: @confidentladies

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