How to get the most out of networking

By: Stuart Hartley

Date: 3 May 2011

Most (if not all) business advisors will recommend networking to business owners. Networking comes is so many forms these days – everything from sporting events, such as dinners at football games and golf days, to formal referral and presentation-style roundtable networking.

In fact, every time you talk to someone about your business idea you are networking, so most of the networking you do won't cost a penny. The more people they hear about your business, in theory, the more people will be aware of it and the more sales you will make. If no one knows about your brilliant new business idea, you will never make any sales.

As most business-owners will probably agree, you could spend all your waking hours at networking events. Before you commit to a networking event try to find out who would typically go (ie business size, business sector, etc) to see if they will match your business marketing requirements. Be careful though, because networking is not just about the person to whom you speak, but also the people they speak to afterwards. A person might be irrelevant to your business, but their contacts could be your next big customer.

At your next networking event, try a different tack from just selling your business idea. Don't sell your business, but try and help other people's businesses. Ask them why they are at the event, whom they want to meet and how you might be able to help them. Businesses will remember you more for helping them in this way than for the sales pitch you gave in a networking session.

And one last tip: get feedback from all of your enquiries so you can analyse how successful each networking event has been. Don't just consider direct sales either. You might have made indirect sales that may have come from personal referrals at an event.

Stuart Hartley is a senior consultant at Angle plc and centre manager at the Corby Enterprise Centre

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