Business Networking Groups
Building a business comes down to increasing sales. Some businesses can achieve increased sales through marketing alone but most have to rely on salesmanship. To increase sales through selling there is only two ways to do it- cold calling or networking. There is a whole industry that has grown up around cold calling but everyone who encounters networking will swear by it.
Business networking groups make a great start to increasing sales. They exist so attendees can network with each other. First, the groups see if there are opportunities for business among each other. However, those opportunities get exhausted quickly. The next purpose is to exchange leads for the businesses. As members see opportunities for others in the group they pass those along.
All metropolitan areas will have business networking groups. Some will be formal and have national ties like BNI (Business Network International). Other groups will be less formal, perhaps just a local business group professionals. To find these groups one can look at the business calendar listings in the local paper. Also, they can be found by searching for the name of the city one is in and the term business network.
Another set of business networking groups are professional organizations like a chamber of commerce. Metropolitan areas will have a number of chambers where one can attend events where networking is encouraged. The advantage here is that a lot of contacts can be made without having to reciprocate leads. Also, be aware of all the ethnic chambers of commerce and chambers in the suburban areas. All are happy to have guests and typically one does not have to be a member of a particular ethnicity or have a business in the area to attend. Then there are other groups where business professionals gather that can be used for networking like Rotary clubs or Toastmasters. Don;t forget one's own industry gatherings either.
Getting the most out of business networking groups takes planning and work. The job is not done by just showing up. First and foremost is to have plenty of business cards. This may sound rudimentary, but it happens that good people have met someone vital and do not have a business card to give. Another pre-planning and work project is to have a smooth elevator speech. A speech 20-30 seconds long telling people one's name, business name, and what the business does. Sounds simple but it does take work to have it polished and memorable. Finally, for each meeting create a plan of what one wants to see as an outcome. Setting goals like meeting the speaker at the luncheon or making X number of contacts. This is very important as its gives a purpose to arriving rather than showing up and hoping.
To have success with business networking groups here are some tips-
- Arrive early and stay late, this is when the real networking happens.
- Follow-up, more sales are lost because people do not follow-up on a conversation from a business meeting. Send a card or email thanking the person for meeting and then promising a call to schedule an appointment.
- Give first. If possible, help the person you met with something they need first. Give a lead or help them promote their business someway.
- Be consistent. Showing up at a networking event every time will get a steady stream of calls over time.
- Be everywhere. Showing up at all networking events will keep one in people's mind.
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