HomeOpinion & AnalysisAccelerate your growth with purposeful networking

Accelerate your growth with purposeful networking

All lasting business is built on friendship. — Alfred A Montapert

SME’s Chat with Phillip Chichoni

Last year I attended over a dozen business networking events. However, I noticed that a number of people don’t seem to understand the purpose of such events.

You see someone arriving just when the event is starting and leaving as soon as it ends.

My question was always: “Why did they bother coming?”

Of course, some people attend events solely for the keynote speaker’s presentation. Unless your business is doing extremely well, there is no problem with that. But for the majority of us who are working hard to grow our businesses, networking events present fine opportunities for meeting new people; people who could end up becoming our customers, suppliers or business partners.

Some could even know those people that we are dying to meet, but who are impossible to make an appointment with.

Imagine trying to make an appointment with the CEO of a big bank, or other big companies that you would love to do business with.

If you have tried it, you will agree with me that it is a nightmare. Not only will the receptionist ask what your business with the big boss is, but she will direct you to some minnows who will just waste your time without helping you get what you want.

Top executives and company owners are very busy people. They have no time for you unless you can help them with something that really matters to them.

So how can you present that idea for a joint venture that will transform your company to the CEO of a key industry player? Or get that mention in the Standard that could generate the publicity you need to drive sales? Or maybe you new business is quickly running out of cash and desperately needs an infusion of capital.

There are lots of people who can help you grow your business, but you will not be able to reach them on the phone or get an appointment in their office. But some entrepreneurs fail to take the advantage of networking, leaving an event without linking with anyone new.

Who knows, maybe the lady sitting across the table from you is Nigel Chanakira’s niece; or goes to church with Charity Jinya.

To benefit from networking, try and connect with a few new people at each event. The opportunity to meet important people is usually before the event starts. If you arrive early enough, you might meet the organisers, presenters and important guests before they are enclosed by their friends and associates.

Some people don’t see the benefit of networking because of previous expectations that were quashed. One such expectation is approaching networking with a view to making sales or getting contracts.

Networking is like advertising, there is no automatic guarantee of a sale. While it may occasionally lead to a sale, if your primary intent is selling, you will fail most of the time because potential clients will see that your attempt to network is a poorly veiled sales tactic.

Selling is seen as manipulative. Most people hate being sold to; they want to willingly go to a seller and buy. You see so many signs saying “NO HAWKERS” or “NO DOOR TO DOOR SALESMEN” at many offices and business premises. It doesn’t mean that people there don’t buy anything. they just don’t like being sold to.

The ultimate goal of networking is not to make a sale, but to connect with people who may be able to help you reach a particular goal, be it a referral, a contact, a recommendation or an interview. But if you ask for what you want, especially at first, people will avoid you.

The secret is to start by giving. Find something that the other person really wants and provide it to them. Make a connection and build a relationship. Afterwards the other person may feel the need to reciprocate and ask about what you want.

Sometimes that relationship will grow to a level where you can freely talk about your needs and the other person will do what they can to help.

Please send me feedback on what has worked better for you. Best wishes in growing your business.

Phillip Chichoni is a strategic business planning consultant who works with entrepreneurs and growing businesses. You may contact him by email on chichonip@smebusinesslink.com, or visit http://smebusinesslink.com

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