Monday, December 4, 2006

Unlocking all the business benefits of networking

Business networking is much more than a series of one off transactions and the benefits far wider than simply generating referrals. The traditional assumptions about exchanging business cards and having a ready made elevator pitch fall wide of the mark. For many professionals and business owners networking is central to most of their business development activity.

Research* conducted over the last 12 months indicates that experienced and successful professional business people get far more from networking than the hope of a few sales. They also don't try to sell, or over use their business pitch as a way of developing trusted business relationships.

“I was surprised to see how much care individuals take in building a relationship.” Roger Croft, PRD Partnership

One of the key findings was how business owners build trust, and what they look for in another business owner. The key factors are “do I like them?” together with ability, and reliability. They have a range of strategies that they use to check out these factors in some depth over a period of time. For instance they may well want to see you at work!

Many business owners have a good idea of their key skills. If you add in the in depth knowledge of markets that will exist in your network, you can refine your offering to make the most of your skills. Gaining this valuable market intelligence is one of the key, but overlooked benefits of networking.

The concept of “networking transactions” has arisen through the research. Ideas, information, referrals, tips, support, even just listening are all exchanges, or networking transactions between two networkers. Each exchange has a value and a risk attached to it. Depending on how trusted your relationship is depends on whether the exchange can take place.

To facilitate the process of developing successful relationships at NRG we have developed a framework that members can use as a guide. We also offer a seminar and free download both entitled ‘the 7 secrets of effective networking’. NRG member Ellis Pratt of Cherryleaf, a technical communication company, has written a self help workbook entitled ‘Network to get work’ and says “NRG has developed the seven secrets to effective business networking. It's a great model to follow, and use as a framework for networking.”

*The research was conducted by Roger Croft of the PRD Partnership and Martin Davies of NRG Business Networks.