Monday, May 7, 2012


Effective business networking is the linking together of individuals who, through trust and relationship building, become walking and talking advertisements for each other.
Successful small businesses–regardless of what they do or sell–have one thing in common: their owners know how to build and maintain relationships. The truth is that entrepreneurs too often get caught up in details about their products or services that they fail to notice how critical relationship building is…. not just with customers, but also with vendors, employees and even competitors. 
Without strong relationships, it is impossible to have success as a business owner.  Businesses need to have long-term customers and good vendor relationships that will carry it through challenging times and tight deadlines.  It is also essential to have  relationships with other business owners so you can share struggles, resources and best practices that will really give you an edge. The reality is that business relationships are just like any other relationship. They require effort to maintain and they must be mutually beneficial.
As in any relationship, you must be willing to give, share and support, not just take or receive.

Many entrepreneurs learn this the hard way when they neglect their business contacts because they think they are just too busy to put the effort into the relationship. Failure to put enough effort into nurturing relationships cause them to disappear. 

Business contacts feel taken advantage of when you only call them when you need a favor.  In order to maintain relationships you need to reach out to people on a regular basis even if it is just to say a quick hello and ask how they and their business is doing. 
If you keep your pipeline full and develop relationships with  business peers who are dedicated to helping each other succeed you will be better able to succeed in a competitive market. 

Here are some suggestions -
Encourage Honest Feedback:  An open, honest relationship demands clear communications of how each party is performing.  Encourage constructive criticism and be brave enough to suggest ways clients can help your firm perform better
 Listen More Than You Talk:   Take time to listen to your contacts and really understand where they are coming from.
Make A Routine:

Devise a system to ensure that not too much time passes before you connect with your contacts.   A professional database is one way of doing this.  Also with the proliferation of social media tools these days such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, it's much easier to keep in touch. 

Be Honest:  As a small business owner, it's important that people see you as an expert in your  field.  But,  it is important to be honest with people about what your expertise is.  If you don’t know something or can’t help them say so.  People really respect you when you are honest.
Take Notes:  Keep detailed notes on everyone you meet. When you get back to the office (or finish a phone call) enter notes into your address book or contact system. Later, you will want to be able to enter keywords like 'sailing' or 'wireless' or 'French' and find all the people you know who match that keyword. Doing keyword mining on your own contacts will pay dividends for years."

Give More than You Receive:  Be sure to contact people when you are NOT in need of something. Take time to learn about their business since it's as important to them as your business to you.  Clients really appreciate it when they realize that you're looking out for them.

Remember to make building relationships part of your daily routine. 

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