Not everybody is a natural networker. It’s a common misapprehension that all entrepreneurs and business owners are natural extroverts, who relish meeting new people and being among a crowd. Some of them are introverts who just happen to have a particular set of skills, and prefer to use those skills to make as much money as possible without having to endure too much interaction with other people. We sympathize with people in that position, but we feel like they’re missing out.
If your business is performing well, you may believe that you don’t need to get out there and network, but to believe that would be to miss the bigger picture. While it might be true that things are going well right now, they could be going even better if you had an expanded network to assist you. You also might need that same network to come to your aid when the good times end, and conditions become a little more challenging. It happens to all businesses eventually, and those that survive those troubling times usually have reliable contacts to fall back on when they need to.
Networking Is Marketing
If you avoid networking, you might be under the impression that networking events are just an occasion for people to have a few drinks and exchange business cards. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you’ve chosen the right event, the people there won’t just be fellow business owners looking to share their experiences with you - they’re potential customers. Even better than that, their entire customer base could also be potential customers for you!
Obviously, not everybody you meet will have a potential cash value to you, and nor should you look at every network contact as a source of revenue. Interact with them the same way you would with everybody you come into contact with professionally, and look at each introduction as an opportunity. Think of it as a real-life version of a mobile slots game. You don’t expect success to come when you’re playing mobile slots the first time you spin the reels - you expect it to come after repetition and dedication. Keep meeting and greeting people, and a jackpot contact will come to you just as surely as a cash jackpot eventually finds slot games players.
Networking Is Recruitment
Some of the most respected recruitment websites in the world urge you to network more for the benefit of your career, and they have good reason to do so. Networking can be a form of recruitment, and that works in two ways. Firstly, it can be an opportunity for you to meet someone who would be perfect to work with or alongside, or to have working for you. Meeting someone at a networking event is a chance to have an informal interview with them and assess their potential as a worker - without them even knowing it's happening!
It could also lead to new career opportunities for you. If you’re not a business owner, you’re an employee. You might love your job, or you might not. Every time you go to represent your company at a networking event, you’re likely to meet people who work in a similar industry to you, and they may also be looking for new staff. Networking opens doors that you didn’t even know existed.
Networking Is Problem Solving
Unless you work in a highly specialized field, you’re not the only person who’s ever done your job. You’re also unlikely to be the only person who’s ever encountered the problems you’ve encountered over the course of doing that job. There are likely dozens of people out there - some of whom will be more experienced than you - who have faced similar circumstances before, and worked out how to overcome them. You’ll find them at networking events.
If you’re dissatisfied with your lead provider, don’t be afraid to speak to someone from another company and ask where their leads come from. If your IT systems don’t work the way you want them to, ask other people who they use, and whether they’d recommend them. The kind of people who come to networking events are usually inclined to be helpful - that’s part of the reason they’re there in the first place. Take advantage of that help.
Networking Builds Respect
This is almost the reverse of the above point. Perhaps you don’t come across problems in your line of work all that often anymore. Perhaps you’ve seen it all and done it all, and you’re in a position to pass that knowledge on to others. If you go to a networking event with knowledge to give and a positive attitude toward giving it, you’ll find yourself winning friends very quickly.
As you already know, reputation is everything in business. If the local business community comes to view you as a wise and gifted professional with an excellent knowledge base and a positive attitude toward helping others, you’ll find that word quickly spreads. When it does, you’ll suddenly find that you’re getting a lot more client and sales referrals from elsewhere than you used to.
Networking Builds Communities
One of the best forms of promotion and marketing you can get involved in at the local level is charity and community work. It can be hard to set up a charity or community event on your own, but it's easy to do so when you do into partnership with other people - especially if those other people have experience of running charity and community events in the past.
Potential customers judge companies by their ethics and their actions. If you’re frequently seen to be involved in positive campaigns with and for the local community, you’re more likely to receive business from that community than a person or business that doesn’t. Network-based community events strengthen the connection between a business and the town or city it operates within, and that’s always a good thing.
All of the above factors are positive, but they can only become positives for you if you start engaging with networking and getting out there to do it. Stop ignoring the invitations. Stop thinking that going to the events isn’t worth the hour or two of your time it would take you to be there. Head out into the networking world with an open mind and a ‘can do’ attitude, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.