How to get the most out of networking events to develop a solid business network?
ROGERS™ SME NETWORK
As an entrepreneur, employee, manager of an SME or freelancer, developing your professional network is crucial. While most SME managers understand that their business relationships play a key role in the success of their company, building these relationships is sometimes easier said than done. Participating in networking activities requires some level of confidence, time, and most importantly, the right tips and tricks—a rare commodity when you make your own way in the entrepreneurial world! Here are our tips for getting the most out of every professional meeting and building a great business contact list.
Basic networking practices for every good entrepreneur
Networking is not a natural exercise for everyone (and that's normal!). However, anyone can become a business relationship guru, all it takes is practice and a solid strategy. Here are several habits you can adopt to strengthen your business relationships:
If you want to network better, start by identifying your goals.
The first step to building lasting business relations is to know yourself well. Start by defining your needs and goals. Then ask yourself what types of meetings could help you take it to the next level.
Also think about what you can offer to the professionals you meet. How would you help them boost their own operations? What skills do you have that they could benefit from? Working on yourself and your organization will help you create mutually beneficial relationships and build trust in your strengths.
Make a good first impression.
People form opinions quickly. Five minutes—that’s how long it takes you to subconsciously decide if someone is worth knowing. To get past this barrier, start by introducing yourself. Be natural and don’t give the impression that you are reciting a memorized speech. The objective is not to make a sales pitch, but to build relationships. And be attentive. For example, remember the name of the person you’re speaking to and use it to address them. This is the kind of attention that could be appreciated.
Keep the conversation going.
The first step went well, but after a few minutes, you feel the conversation is going in circles. Stimulate dialogue by taking an interest in the person you are speaking to. Get to know them, ask them about their challenges and their journey, and then try to draw parallels with your own. You can also ask them for advice, and show them that you value their opinion. However, be careful not to monopolize the conversation.
Step out of your comfort zone.
You go to a networking morning full of good intentions, but your shyness catches up with you. Think of the situation as a challenge and force yourself to reach out to others and engage in conversation. For example, you can set yourself goals, such as a minimum number of people to meet. With practice and successful contacts, this approach will become increasingly natural to you.
Focus on helping one another.
Your new contact is looking for a marketing expert, and lo and behold, you just happen to know one. Put them in touch! Feel free to initiate the stage where you create business links between your relations. In addition to being positive and caring, this will help you in the future. The people you will have put in touch will be grateful, and surely glad to return the favour if the opportunity arises.
Keep in touch.
We often wait until we need help to reach out to our network. However, after many months without hearing from you, it’s more complicated. By keeping in touch with your contacts, you will build real relationships and not feel uncomfortable asking them for a favour. Simple, regular gestures are all that’s needed. For instance, in the days after meeting someone, send a LinkedIn connection request accompanied by a brief message to follow up on your conversation. Once this first contact has been made, try to come back to your contact every quarter, by sending them information that might be of interest to them, or simply by getting news on their professional progress.
Forge lasting business relationships.
The key is better networking. Attending a few networking activities every year and getting the most out of the events you participate in are vital steps in developing a solid business network. Maintaining one’s network is also essential for any good entrepreneur looking to promote their organization.
Some have a freer, more general attitude to networking, while others opt for a more structured approach adapted to the realities of the entrepreneurs involved. Time is money! If you want to see your company grow and prosper, invest your time in networking strategies that are likely to yield the best results.
How to meet the right economic players and create unique business opportunities?
The Rogers™ SME Network activities are a good example: for every networking activity, our team of experts brings together entrepreneurs from sectors that are not in competition and creates multiple groups of nine companies to a table. The meetings are held either in the morning or after work, in a warm but professional atmosphere.
First, a facilitator gives every participant five minutes to present their business. Every representative is encouraged to demonstrate their service with the help of visuals (on a tablet, for example) or by bringing their product in for a physical demonstration so that other participants can handle it or try it out. Then, the facilitator will moderate discussions between participants so that everyone has the opportunity to ask questions and get contact information from everyone at the table.
How do you listen for the needs of other entrepreneurs in order to help them achieve their business goals? How do you improve your discussions? How do you use referrals of your existing contacts to create new business relationships? The facilitator’s guidance gives participants the opportunity to gather the relevant information and implement best practices for networking.
The goal of effective networking is not to collect business cards, but rather to develop lasting business relationships based on conversation, collaboration and mutual assistance.
The Rogers™ SME Network activities are made possible thanks to our main sponsor, Rogers, with the collaboration of Journal Métro.
For more information, contact:
Head, Membership SME
514 871-4000, extension 4016