For any business learning how to network is essential. Face to face networking is particularly important for RedCat: we ‘do’ Health and Safety, this is not sexy. Other businesses need to trust us before they buy from us, so we need to meet them face to face and develop a real relationship with them. RedCat was formed almost 13 years ago and I have been to a number of networking events in that time. Here are some of my thoughts on the the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of business networking. Imagine the theme tune of the film playing in the background…
- Finding a network where you actually like the people! After all business needs to be fun.
- One that suits the time of day when you are at your best. I like morning meetings, lunches can seriously interfere with my work schedule and by mid evening I am no good to anyone!
- The host welcomes you with a smile and the other attendees are not stuck in groups; this sounds simple but is often missed. A good networking event organiser will make sure you feel ‘part of it’.
- A good quality venue. Parking helps. And a non-fried food offering- need I say more! Sometimes I like cake too, but quality morsels are best.
- A network where leads come slowly and over time because the people actually understand what you do; as with many businesses Health and Safety is not one size fits all. Those leads are worthwhile and you are not wasting precious time.
- The venue, food & drink are dire. Dirty premises, with tasteless coffee and unsavoury food, or not enough food/ coffee
- Being thrust a business card, this happens all too often. Networking is about getting to know someone, not just a collection of cards, the card should not be the first thing you see! Or indeed being thrust a package of marketing materials that you are asked to distribute!
- Being talked at about someone’s business. Business is about people, chit chat is important. Someone droning on about their business whilst not being the slightest bit interested in yours is a turn off.
- A mass of people, often accountants or lawyers, and not many other folk. This creates an imbalance, as does lots of ‘trades’ people: a balance is required.
- Cliques: people who already know each other and are not willing or able to talk to anyone else.
- A sea of black suits. The business world needs colour and vibrancy!
- Poorly dressed people with poor personal hygiene; unprofessional all round.
- People do well-rehearsed, or equally not well thought-through, pitches. Death by going round the room; my idea of hell.
- Getting stuck with someone who is greedy or had too much to drink!
- Those networks where you are under pressure to deliver a lead. This results in cold referrals and people buying a lot of stationery or widgets! But in essence a false sense of trust. I am tempted to refer people to you, when I actually know someone better.
There are many types of networking events. It’s about finding the one that suits you and your business. It’s not about not going for the hard sell, but it is about making sure that you and your business are professionally portrayed.