If I may start this way, that it is quite regrettable that we were not taught entrepreneurship in school and this exactly why many people find it hard to run a business or run a business for someone or a company.
But we have to look at the brighter side of things and see what we can learn faster and also observe especially with the biggest leverage we all have today – The Internet.
Business Networking is not the same thing as attending events, dressing and looking good to get business or contracts.
It is the sum total of what we do to keep our business up and running by offering quality service, solving problems for people (customers and non customers).
It requires focus, consistency and trust.
So for instance in my agency and in my capacity as the group head of strategy, I initiated a weekly newsletter in 2015.
As at that time my agency was less than two years and there was no guarantee we could survive our first five years, a major milestone that most Nigerian business don’t reach before they collapse.
The aim of the newsletter was to share knowledge.
Targeting our prospective clients, partners and even our own vendors and suppliers
Published every Monday, our audience are given exclusive access to the most important trends in our industry, what it means for their business and what they can do with the information.
Within three months, the newsletter became popular that any delay or missed edition leads to emails and phone calls from our audience.
And because we were using a special cloud software to create and distribute the newsletter, we were able to know who is reading, when and how often they read it.
We received phone calls of requests to discuss business and show what we do to new clients we never thought of.
So without attending an event, wearing expensive perfumes, we attracted businesses, referrals and respect to the agency.
We have been mainstreamed to think of business networking as been a gatecrash to events, seminars and conferences but often times we just end up wasting productive time meeting people and collecting business cards that might not often be of any use.
So here are my checklist to be a good networker/business developer:
1. Be good at what you do.
2. Invest in yourself and learn, unlearn and relearn.
3. Be ready to give something/work for free.
4. Share your ideas, knowledge and your time, when they need extra that they really value, they will be ready to pay for it.
5. Your customers are your strongest network – Make them happy by solving problems for them, call them to show concerns even on a personal matter, alert them of threats to their business and what they can do to avert problems, they will bring you more customers
6. Your staff/partners or vendors are a good networking fuel.
So even if you have a good network and you get customers, if your services are bad or epileptic, you will lose and words travel around.
Treat your staff well, pay your partners, let them know you have their backs.
7. Have a mentor in the business, they have seen it all. They have worked with crazy, rich, broke, nice and indifferent clients/customers. They will teach you many tricks and unspoken codes to win people.
8. Share your story, let people know who you are and what you do, you can pick one of the many social networks, for me personally, I write about what I know professionally via newsletters, annual business outlooks. I also own a business news website, this website, PageOne.ng.
You can even use YouTube/video if you can’t write. Record with your phone and share your story. When you are consistent with it, people will listen.
9. Read, read, read. Not just books, video documentaries, business news sites, business news TV channels, I recommend Bloomberg, CNBC, Reuters.
10. Rest, sleep and take your family seriously, you will be able to do all of the above.