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Networking isn't just about rubber eggs and curly canapesNetworking to most business owners is what you do over rubber eggs or curly canapés, but restricting yourself to conversation over a buffet in the hope that you’ll get more than a few crumbs of business is wasting an opportunity.

I recently had the pleasure of talking to a professional who had sunk a huge amount of money into her new practice two years earlier; I asked her what she thought of networking.

When I started my practice I needed to generate business, fast. I mapped out who would be my best introducers (of which I knew none) and went out to find them.

Strategic networking from the start

Networking strategically not just fishingShe had me caught already; she started out by searching for those she knew would be most able to help her! She didn’t look for any other categories of people, other than those she knew had similar clients, where she knew they could make a three way beneficial relationship. This was fishing, but very well targeted, looking for A-listers only!

Reciprocity and networking

Key to this approach was finding a way that both business owners could benefit as well as, most importantly, the (soon to be) mutual clients. She approached many of her targets and if they weren’t interested, she kept going.

Relationship development

Where there was a meeting of minds, and only then, she nurtured the relationship (click your-7-part-guide-to-strategically-managing-relationships for some more ideas). As the relationship between both parties developed, and not until then, she started to outline more ideas for collaboration. Again, some relationships never got that far. But the ones that did, really paid dividends. How do you plan the development of your relationships (click here for more ideas)?

Collaboration

Networking is about collaboration and although I now have a very powerful network of fellow professionals, I continue to invest in my network.

The collaboration took different forms between different parties. Yes there was the simple idea of exchanging referrals, but so much more. A joint client benefits card (like a local version of the “nectar card” – only a lot simpler) was one idea, that was put into place. In another there was a joint promotional offer that ended up with a great public event, TV coverage and huge amounts of PR.

What would you do, if you could find the right person to collaborate with?

Finding the right people

I saved the best bit till last. You remember I said how she targeted relevant professionals and didn’t go for the blunderbuss approach that so many try. She started off by phoning suitable professionals until she created her network. No curly canapés here, she saved her networking energy for the right connections only. Some would call it cold calling, but remember this wasn’t about selling – it was about relationship building in a very direct sense.

Time to build your own networking strategy

Hopefully this article has given you some ideas about building a clear strategy. Perhaps you’d now like to download our free report “Guide to building your own networking strategy”, it's free and waiting for you right now in our JoinedUp Networking toolkit. This toolkit is a resource library stuffed with goodies to help you get better results from your networking (email address required). Click here to download it.

Time to design your network

Who would you put into your network, how will you collaborate with them and what will you do to find them?

 
Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Networking is a key part of getting great results in small firms. If you want great networking tips sent to your desk once a month, click here and I will start sending them to you, so you can make a real difference to your referrals. 
 
Fried Egg photo under creative commons license. Click here for more details