Networking is an essential element of business development, a crucial skill and even a profession for some. In this context, it has nothing to do with IT and everything to do with people and relationships. We define it as the creation, development and maintenance of intricate systems of inter-personal relations with current and prospective friends, prospects, clients, suppliers, associates, supporters and even competitors. If valued, it can yield mutual opportunities for business growth and the sharing of strategic business information.
Done at its best, Networking generates strong business relationships, including a pipeline of prospects and a secondary sales force that might champion your message further afield. At its worst, it can be a superficial and manipulative ‘snatch-and-grab’ style of behaviour where the networker expects instant results and business benefit from minimal input and personal sacrifice. Healthy relationships are rarely built on one night stands, even if that first encounter is critical in making a great first impression. There’s nothing wrong with being strategic about whom you wish to connect with and why, but have some integrity and transparency of intent about your networking intentions.
As we approach our next event – Speed Re-Networking on 20 October in Warrington – I’ve been reflecting on how this event, which we run bi-annually, will work. I have seen it approached in many ways – some right and many wrong in my humble opinion. We decided to re-name the event Re-Networking this time as we’d like the focus to shift from simply networking on the day to “pick up” new contacts to considering how those relationships are consolidated.
First observation: Networking with someone new is great and initially it’s all about exploring synergies, But, tune into the word ‘Re-networking’ and value existing contacts in the room too. During Speed Networking events, I’ve frequently heard comments such as “I’ve already met them”, “They do the same as me”, and “We know each other already so let’s take a breather”. This can be a missed opportunity to relationship-build. Savour every chance to ask what’s new, what they are working on, what contacts they’re looking for at present, and how you could help each other’s businesses. Everyone’s business moves on and things change so network as strongly with existing contacts as you do with new ones in a speed networking circuit, or indeed in any other networking environment.
Secondly, after the event, re-network continuously to nurture those new relationships. Bring your voice and plentiful business cards on the day but use your email, phone, social media and further personal contact thereafter for prompt follow-up and relationship-building both on and offline.
Re-networking needs to be fundamental in all business relationships. And this is why our next event will encourage attendees to re-network and not just network.
For details of this and further business networking, support and training events run by Colony, visit our events page here