When you start out in business one of the first things a business advisor will tell you to do is get involved in networking. But what exactly is networking and what are the benefits of involvement?
When I first started networking many moons ago, I made the mistake of thinking that networking was meeting potential customers. I didn’t realise it was actually about forming relationships that may lead to referrals.
I was involved in various different networking groups before I heard about BNI or Business Network International. This is a world-wide organisation that offers a structured referral marketing based training programme for its members and weekly referral generation meetings where there also happens to be excellent networking opportunities with visitors and members.
BNI totally changed my opinions about business networking. I realised the importance of being specific when asking for referrals. Whereas I was saying I just want introductions to anyone who needs search engine optimisation services, I now ask if members of my BNI Chapter can refer me to someone who I name. I find that by doing my research first and picking out a company that I want to work with, and finding the name of the person who would influence the decision in the company about using a search engine optimisation service I am now able to get better introductions and close more business.
If you are thinking about joining a business networking group I’d highly recommend you see if there is a local BNI Chapter because BNI is the largest and more successful referral organisation. If you just want a coffee why not meet at Starbucks? If you are serious about generating business then visit your local BNI Chapter. You can find your nearest BNI here.
There are many other benefits of attending a good business networking group in addition to referrals. It’s also a great support network where you can have access to people in lots of different professions. If you know someone who needs a plumber or a builder – you can refer them. If you need to ask the advice of an accountant or a solicitor – you have access to trusted people. I only wish I found out about BNI sooner!
If you would like any advice on getting the most out of business networking I’d be delighted to help you. Please post your comments below or use the feedback form.