Mastering the Art of Networking: Building Connections for Business Success - X-Forces Enterprise
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Mastering the Art of Networking: Building Connections for Business Success

For some, the word networking conjures up images of large groups of people in suits, standing around in hotel function suites, exchanging business cards. That still happens of course, but platforms such as LinkedIn and online or virtual events have expanded the networking field exponentially.

 

Networking may be technically defined as ‘developing and maintaining a network of business contacts’ but in practice it’s about meeting people, building relationships, improving your knowledge and gathering information. It’s also considered by many as the most effective way of finding opportunities.

Networking provides an opportunity for business owners to exchange ideas and information with other traders and business people from their local area or business sector. It also offers an opportunity to meet potential clients, suppliers and business partners. Building relationships with other business people in this way is also an important activity for every business owner’s personal development.

 

The Benefits of Networking

For many people, the ultimate purpose of networking is to generate new business by finding potential new business partners and obtaining word-of-mouth referrals, recommendations and introductions. However, networking can also help to:

  • Share or learn about new ideas
  • Find out what competitors are up to
  • Gather general or specific industry information
  • Get help with problems from people with appropriate knowledge and experience
  • Keep up to date with new industry developments, regulations and policies
  • Form relationships with potential partners

 

Finding Suitable Networks

Local: Examples of local business networking organisations include Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses.

Sector: Trade associations and professional bodies can provide details of networks specifically for a particular sector – go to www.taforum.org/trade-associations for a directory of UK trade associations. Business exhibitions and trade fairs also provide an opportunity to showcase products and services.

Online: There are a number of business-oriented online networks available, the most prolific being LinkedIn. Many are free to join for a basic membership package, including XFE’s Military In Business® Networking events the XFE Knowledge Exchange Hub, which are exclusive spaces for business owners from the Armed Forces community. Blogs and discussion forums are also useful for communicating with other business people online and for keeping up to date with key issues affecting a particular sector. Social networking platforms such as X (Twitter) and Facebook can also be used for online business networking.

Informal: There are also many informal opportunities for meeting business contacts, for example while travelling, during conferences and training courses and at parties and sporting events.

 

Networking Preparation

  • Research the business interests of speakers and attenders at networking events
  • Develop a short business pitch to be used in conversation with event attenders
  • Have your LinkedIn profile ready to offer for quick connections, and there is still a role for the traditional printed business card for in-person networking.

 

The Follow-Up

It can take a number of months to develop business relationship and alliances, so it is important to have a plan for when and how to follow up with new contacts in order to encourage further meetings or invitations to events.

 

Networking Ethics

Successful, sustainable networking is predicated on reciprocity, or put another way, apply the sales negotiation principle of ‘you gotta give to get’. People will remember you if you engage with your network often, not just when you need something. Offering advice, comment, information and support will make you memorable.

 

Now you know the theory and ethos behind networking, it’s time to dive in! X-Forces Enterprise runs regular virtual networking events, hosted by established business owners from the Armed Forces community. Join an online Military in Business® Virtual Networking Event soon to grow your network of like-minded people – the next dates can be found in our full list of Upcoming Events.

 

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