If you Google the word “networking” the results you find say things like “it is a socioeconomic business activity by which businesspeople and entrepreneurs meet to form business relationships and to recognise, create, or act upon business opportunities share information and seek potential partners for ventures.”
The concept sounds complicated and business networking is so much more than showing up at networking functions, shaking a lot of hands and collecting a bunch of cards. As with any other business acts, this process involves building and nurturing relationships, and can be a deceptively complex process.
Networking is a low-cost and effective method to market your business as your clients want to get to know the real you.
Although face-to-face meetings will always be the most trustworthy way to win someone over, (just be sure to switch on the charm when doing so) when trying to get in touch with someone who isn’t available, you should try the social media route.
Related: Are You Networking Effectively?
The most reputable website for this is LinkedIn as this offers a brief look into one’s professional life whilst holding back on what was on the lunch menu that day. Here, you can add previous clients, get them to write reviews on any work you have done for them and exchange ideas with fellow freelancers. With so many users worldwide, it really is the best way to share your online CV with the rest of the world.
Likeability is vital in order to close a deal, so if you aren’t comfortable with the idea of ‘schmoozing’, then it’s completely fine to use social media as a networking tool. The great thing about online networking, is that is allows the inner, undaunted self to shine.
Growing your network is a very rewarding process as not only will it allow you to build up your own repertoire of professionals to call on, but will also give you the chance to get out of your 20 square meter hot desk at your local coffee shop to meet and socialise with other like minded freelancers and of course, potential clients.
One thing to bear in mind is that networking is a positive activity.
It’s all about building relationships and standing out of the crowd! See it as a chat more than interview; although it’s quite clear that everyone present wants to ‘talk business’, you definitely don’t want to come off as insincere. Set your intentions for the day, and aim to achieve them.
Don’t have enough time to spend on a particular project, yet your client needs the work done now? Have you ever considered your friends and family as part of your professional network? Chances are that these people in your social circle have a variety of skills that you can utilise and benefit from.
You can even offer a trade exchange in lieu of money. But, always keep it professional, as you don’t want to taint any relationship this way.
Related: Top Ten Networking Resources
Here are five tips to growing your network:
1. Sell yourself, your unique self
It takes a lot of guts to become a freelancer. You’re already ahead of the pack, making your own decisions and finding your own clients! Well done!
You’ve already spotted something in yourself that differentiates yourself from everyone else… all that has to be done now is to convince paying clients that you can offer them skills and a service that others can’t. Present your truest self – a phony can be spotted a mile away, from the way you conduct a meeting to the quality of your work. Plagiarism doesn’t only refer to the theft of someone else’s work, but also to the theft of someone else’s character. You wouldn’t want a client to walk away from you thinking WTF!
2. Help others along the way
Remember when you relied on others for ‘a good word’ when starting out on your freelancing journey? Well now is your chance to pay it forward.
Life is all about giving. Some of the most successful business owners are the nicest guys around; Richard Branson for example has signed Bill Gate’s and Warren Buffet’s pledge to give half of his earnings to charity. Being a generous and fair person is a sure way to win clients over before you have even been introduced.
“It is not true that nice guys finish last. Nice guys are winners before the game ever starts.” – Addison Walker
3. Have big goals
Think big! Sometimes the word realistic can really hinder our success. If everyone was realistic about what they wanted out of life, there wouldn’t be anyone making a difference in the world! We would just ‘get by’ and not much would drive us to do better and bigger things with our lives.
Test yourself, and don’t let anyone put a negative spin on your goals, so surround yourself with positive and supportive people. It will be a far more fun journey to the top.
4. Stay humble
It takes a team to build a business. Whether you’re running a one-man show, or have a team of people to call on, you need your network. And your network needs you.
You may land a great paying job this month, which will give you a much-needed boost of confidence (and cash flow), but there’s always next month, which may not go according to plan.
Never get ahead of yourself and stay down to earth, remembering how you started off. Acknowledge your limitations and stay true to who you are and what you’re good at. No one is ever good at everything.
5. Get social (media) savvy
Social media is a very public way to voice your opinion. Good or bad, it’s easily accessible to almost everyone online. It also gives your clients a chance to rate your work, offers exposure to your company thus making it more reputable and allows you to interact with your network.
It also ensures that you put out good work as there’s nowhere to hide a bad review! (But why would you ever put out anything but that).
Why I Never Meet Someone For Coffee
The conventional offer of “getting coffee” is, in my opinion, one of the most frustrating offers that can be made.
First off, I need to make clear that I am not against meeting people for coffee or even drinking coffee. My issue is that I’ve learned that the offer to go get coffee usually means that somebody wants something from me. Whether it is time, money or to help them make a connection, an offer to grab a drink almost always has some ulterior motive behind it.
You might think that I flat out don’t want to help others, but the real issue is the other opportunities that I have in front of me. I have a lot on my plate, so dedicating the time to a “quick” coffee meeting does not make much sense.
Say no to getting coffee
Hours spent in the office doing business are not the time to sit back, relax or socialise. I try to be as efficient, effective and statistically successful as possible during work hours (and beyond). The conventional offer of “getting coffee” is, in my opinion, one of the most frustrating offers that can be made.
I rarely take anyone up on the offer to “do lunch” during work hours. Just consider the amount of time that it takes to get to and from a coffee or lunch meeting, and how much business could be done in that same time.
Then, think about the inefficiencies of utilising that time for things such as small talk, even before you get to the critical business issue.
Have an objective in mind
I have the objective to try and keep every phone call to a maximum of five minutes. When it comes to in-person meetings, I prefer them to take place at my office or overlapping other meetings I have outside the office, which I call “holding court.”
Even then, I try to keep those meetings to 20 minutes long. This allows me to fit in as many meetings or calls as possible. So many people make the excuse that they are “doing business” and then leave the office to do unimportant things, or overlap their meetings around errands.
Make no mistake, I’m not advising against meeting people in person. I’m saying take control of the business opportunity and have them come to you, or meet them somewhere convenient when you are outside of the office.
No coffee, just grind
The majority of lunch and coffee meetings that take place are nothing but an inefficient use of time. I would suggest not only rejecting such meetings during work hours, but to also stop asking for coffee meetings unless they’re absolutely necessary.
How do you determine whether or not a meeting is necessary? Take a look at the reasons and impacts the meeting can have. If these outweigh the potential drawbacks of an in-person meeting, then it is acceptable to ask. Make sure that you focus on making efficiency a key principle when chasing your objectives.
Stay focused in on critical business issues and you will find that focus will provide you with everything you desire in business and life.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Great Places To Take Your Clients When Networking
Are you hoping to make a lasting impression on your client? Maybe you are trying to woo a new client? If that’s the case, you’re going to want to read on and check out these great places that are ideal for taking your clients to.
Do you live in South Africa and work at a job that entails taking clients out while networking? Are you tired of doing the same activities over and over? Are you hoping to make a lasting impression on your client? Maybe you are trying to woo a new client? If that’s the case, you’re going to want to read on and check out these great places that are ideal for taking your clients to.
Introduce Them to Casino Action and Fun
There’s no better way to make a splash with your clients than by taking them to one of the many casinos found in South Africa. Between the cities of Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Queenstown, Pretoria, and Sun City there are more than 15 casinos to check out. Casinos offer a light and fun atmosphere that is perfect for letting loose. At the same time, they aren’t too loud, which means you can go ahead and sneak in a little shop talk.
Besides the casinos, you can also take your clients to horse races and even bingo. If the casino action is a big hit with them, be sure to let them know there are a large amount of South African online casinos that offer all the same types of games, plus a whole lot more.
Enjoy a Sports Game
Professional sports events are another fabulous spot to take your clients. You get that laid back casual atmosphere that allows you to stray from the traditional business attire, it’s a chance to get out of the office, and you can introduce your client to your own home team.
South Africa is well-known around the world for its love of sports. Among the most popular are rugby, cricket, and soccer. If you want to take them to the most popular sport in the country, however, soccer is the clear winner. Loftus Versveld and Ellis Park are two stadiums that are known to draw in some very rowdy crowds. Just be sure to get your tickets well in advance so you don’t end up disappointing your client.
Share the Local Cuisine
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking your client out for a meal, this particular option tends to be over-done. In order to make yours a memorable experience, skip the chain restaurants and typical locations and instead introduce your client to local and authentic cuisine. These are the places the tourists don’t tend to visit, but the locals know all about.
Plan an Adventure Tour
Before you go ahead and choose this option, it’s a good idea to learn as much as possible about your client in advance. Not everyone is up to adventure activities, so you want to be sure you don’t put them in an uncomfortable position.
Related: 3 Practical Tips To Nail Networking
If you’ve got the green light, however, there are all kinds of activities you can take part in. Adventures can include a private helicopter tour, paragliding, zip-lining, a shark watching tour, a private surfing lesson, whale watching, kayaking, a sightseeing tour (by bus, car, or foot), bicycling, hiking, snorkelling, horseback riding on the beach, or even High Tea in Cape Town.
All of these ideas are unique and memorable so you know the visit will leave a lasting impression in your client’s mind.
Don’t Be Afraid to Think Outside the Box
When it comes to entertaining your clients while you spend time networking, there is absolutely nothing wrong with thinking outside the box. Coming up with unique ideas is sure to leave that lasting impression in their mind, which is exactly what you are striving for.
The Top 10 Behaviours To Avoid When Networking
There are some things that you should and should not do while networking – it’s important to know the difference.
In this video, Entrepreneur Network partner Ivan Misner goes over the 10 behaviours that you should not exhibit in a networking group.
Sharing your problems and grievances with fellow networkers and guests is not a good idea while meeting and socialising with others in the group. Winging presentations, being late and using your phone are other things to avoid, too.
Networking is key to the success of a company. In fact, a single referral source can bring a chain reaction of new business to your company. That’s why it’s vital to make your time and efforts worthwhile in networking groups.
Success in these groups will happen when the rest of the group members trust enough to open up their best referrals. That’s why it’s vital to avoid these behaviours and demonstrate professionalism.
To learn more, click play.
Related: 3 Practical Tips To Nail Networking
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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