By Andrey Shelokovskiy, owner of 360 Painting of Dallas. Connect on LinkedIn.
In the ever-evolving landscape of business, achieving sustainable growth is the holy grail for entrepreneurs and executives alike. While there are numerous strategies and tactics that can contribute to this goal, one often overlooked yet incredibly powerful approach is strategic networking.
The Power Of Authentic Networking
Networking isn’t just about collecting business cards or adding contacts on LinkedIn. It’s about building meaningful relationships with individuals who can bring value to your business in various ways. The key lies in authenticity—genuine relationships founded on mutual trust and benefit.
1. Build rapport. Instead of jumping right into a sales pitch, start by getting to know the person. Ask about their interests, challenges and goals. This shows genuine interest and helps you understand how you can potentially assist someone.
2. Offer value. Networking isn’t a one-way street. Share your expertise, offer assistance and provide valuable insights without expecting anything in return. By becoming a valuable resource, you establish yourself as a trusted contact.
3. Maintain a long-term focus. Sustainable growth requires long-term relationships. Don’t view networking as a quick-fix solution. Cultivate relationships over time, nurturing them like you would any other business endeavor. In my experience, I’ve found great value in attending networking events on a regular basis. Personally, I believe that there’s no substitute for face-to-face interactions.
This approach has enabled me to forge valuable partnerships and contribute to the growth of my business pipeline. While it’s true that networking events can sometimes appear overwhelming, I’ve discovered that pinpointing a core group of potential partners within the crowd has been a highly effective strategy for navigating this challenge.
The Art Of Giving, Not Selling
One common mistake in networking is approaching it solely as a sales opportunity. While the ultimate goal of networking may be to generate business, the process itself should prioritize offering value and building rapport. When you provide solutions to problems, share knowledge and genuinely help others, you naturally position yourself as a go-to resource.
1. Share your insights. Instead of pushing your product or service, share insights related to your industry. Offer solutions to common challenges. Demonstrate your expertise in the field, and establish yourself as an authority. For example, within the realm of the painting industry, I offer clients invaluable insights into safeguarding their surfaces from corrosion or weathering. I achieve this by explaining the underlying chemical processes and their influence on surface longevity, as well as their implications for future maintenance.
2. Problem-solve. Actively listen during conversations to identify pain points or challenges that your contacts may be facing. If you have a solution, offer it. If not, connect them with someone who can help. This demonstrates your commitment to their success and brings me to the next point.
3. Build a referral network. Referrals are a powerful way to build trust and credibility. If you know someone who can benefit from your contact’s services, make the introduction. This not only strengthens your relationship but also encourages reciprocity.
Building Genuine Connections
In the digital age, where communication often happens behind screens, genuine face-to-face interactions can make a world of difference. Attend industry events, conferences, trade shows and local meetups to meet people in your field.
1. Be present. When you are at networking events, be fully present. Put away your phone and engage in meaningful conversations. Make a conscious effort to connect on a personal level.
2. Follow up. After meeting someone new, follow up promptly. Send a personalized message expressing your appreciation for the conversation and your interest in staying in touch. This simple step can set the stage for a lasting relationship.
3. Nurture relationships. Building a network is an ongoing process. Regularly check in with your contacts, share updates and offer your support. Don’t only reach out when you need something; maintain a consistent presence.
Networking organizations are a great way to connect locally and meet other industry professionals. For example, organizations like Business Network International (BNI) and your local chamber of commerce often facilitate professional networking and referrals among members. (Disclosure: I am a member of BNI.) These groups typically meet regularly, allowing business professionals from various industries to build relationships, exchange referrals and support each other’s business growth through structured networking events.
Leveraging Technology For Networking
While face-to-face interactions are invaluable, technology can enhance your networking efforts.
1. Use LinkedIn. Maintain an active and professional LinkedIn profile. Connect with relevant contacts, share insightful content and engage in meaningful conversations within your industry.
2. Try email marketing. Use email marketing to share valuable content with your network. This could include industry news, informative articles or helpful resources.
3. Get involved with webinars and podcasts. Host webinars or participate in podcasts to showcase your expertise and connect with a wider audience.
At my company, we utilize monthly email newsletters to maintain a presence in the minds of our current and potential customers, offering them valuable tips and useful resources. Our approach is designed not to annoy our contacts with an abundance of calls to action, but to serve as a gentle reminder that our assistance is readily available. I’ve observed that past customers often reengage with us, particularly on projects they had postponed, finding inspiration to move forward after reading our newsletters.
In the quest for sustainable business growth, strategic networking is a potent tool that can’t be underestimated. Prioritizing authenticity, offering value and building genuine relationships are the pillars of effective networking. Remember that networking isn’t just about expanding your reach; it’s about building a community of trusted contacts who can support each other in achieving their goals.
By shifting your focus from selling to giving, you can foster connections that lead to mutually beneficial opportunities, all while contributing to your long-term business growth. So start networking with authenticity, and watch your business flourish.