Business networking is an integral part of everyone’s professional and business development. Networking is essentially the process of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with other business people and potential clients. It is leveraging your business and personal connections to bring you a regular supply of new business. Trying to grow your personal brand or your business without networking is a difficult, if not impossible task. Humans are social creatures, and therefore thrive and benefit from social interaction. As a business owner, there are several reasons you need to network, and here are some of them:
1. Acquiring referrals
The majority of business referrals you will acquire will be from networking. Information moves informally through people, and this is how you gain knowledge of potential clients. It is then up to you to follow up on these once you have knowledge of what’s happening and where. The referrals or leads you get from networking are often high quality and pre-qualified for you. This is usually the most obvious benefit of business networking and the biggest reason business people decide to participate in networking activities. Referrals work in two ways, with business people referring you to others once they know enough about you to have confidence in the recommendation.
2. Access to opportunities
Networking with professionals in your industry and possibly other industries opens up a world of opportunities for you. The possibility of joint ventures, partnerships, client leads, writing and speaking engagements are often discovered during networking sessions. Refusing to engage in networking activities is essentially shooting yourself in the foot. You deny yourself the endless opportunities that can be mined during networking sessions.
In the business world, there’s a common adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” During a networking activity you have the chance to meet and interact with people in influential positions, people you would not ordinarily have the chance to chat with. Networking gives you the chance to build and grow relationships. You also meet people from different sectors and acquire contacts from various industry, which will be beneficial for your business if you use those contacts wisely.
4. Advice and expertise
Because you’re meeting people of all sorts of industries, or maybe just those who are where you want to be, networking allows you to receive free advice. Professionals tend to be very helpful to each other, and understand the concept of exchanging valuable information for each other benefits. This also allows you to gain a fresh perspective on your business, as well as how to better your business. During networking activities is also when you are most likely to meet a potential mentor, who could take an interest in taking you under his/her wing.
5. Raising your profile
Career advancement is one of the core and integral benefits of business networking. Networking gives you an opportunity to raise your profile and increase your visibility. The more people know about you and your business, the better. The more you attend networking sessions and actively interact with people, the more people know about you. Social events are also very good platforms to network, but make sure you’re attending the right ones. This gives you the chance to build a reputation for yourself as reliable source of information, provided that you have been giving useful and trustworthy tips.
6. Increased confidence
Approaching strangers and striking up conversation is not easy for a lot of people, and is a skill that needs to be learnt and mastered. The only way to learn and gain confidence is by doing the action. Continuously attending business and social events, then actively interacting with people, will build your confidence. This in turn affects your capabilities to network in future, and adversely, your business. Confidence is a skill that once acquired can be transferred to different aspects of your life and business as well.
Bonus reason: friendship
Friendships might not directly benefit your business, but they impact your personal life, which in turn affects your business life. Lifelong friendships can be made from networking, and is often the case, given you are mingling with a group of like-minded people. Adult friendships seem to be harder to build than childhood friendships, but networking sessions give you the platform to create meaningful connections with people on a personal level.
Business networking is hardly something to ignore because can be a highly fruitful activity. However, it’s important that you also give value to the people you interact with instead of just extracting what you need. Nobody likes a user, instead provide value to people and you will also gain immense value.