Since starting Tao Business Solutions in 2012, I’ve done an awful lot of networking – and yes, some of it has been truly awful!  Over my next four blog posts, I will be sharing my A to Z of Networking with you – the good, the bad and the downright ugly!

Are you sitting comfortably, with a mug of something hot and steamy in hand?  Then let us begin.

A is for Attendance

It might come as a bit of a shock to some, but turning up in the first place is a real biggie when it comes to networking success.  I’ve lost count of the number of business owners I’ve encountered who look down-trodden at the mention of networking:

“I went networking once but it never got me any work”. 

No shit!  Being in the room works.  Joining a group and not turning up, or sending a sub on your behalf won’t work.  Really people – it’s not rocket science.

Once you’ve turned up and started to talk to people, chances are it will soon become second nature to you.

Let us move swiftly on to B:

B is for Business Cards

Yes, we live in the digital age, connecting with new people on LinkedIn, following them on Twitter but there’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned business card when you first meet someone new at an event.

Does your business card have all the information needed?  Is the information current?  Is your colour scheme easy to read?  Is the font size readable or will the recipient need a magnifying glass to read it?

Business cards are an important tool in your networking kit bag.
Do your business cards reflect your business and personality?

Don’t be afraid to tweak your card between print runs – there’s nothing worse than a card with crossings out and scribbles all over it where a mobile number has changed or an email address was omitted in error. 

One thing I’ve learned over the years is always be prepared and carry business cards on you at all times – you never know who you might bump into,  and when!

So, we’ve turned up to a networking event, we have business cards – now it’s time for our C …..

C is for Commitment

You’ve mastered the attendance bit, you have a pocket full of business cards and you seem to get on with pretty much everyone in the room.  Now all you need to do is commit! 

Becoming a member of a networking group shows that you are serious about your commitment to the group and its members. It also comes with other benefits such as your business profile being included on the group website, mentions over their social media channels and an immediate circle of professionals to turn to when you need advice.

Some groups can be an expensive financial outlay, so visit several groups and find one that suits your budget and your availability.  We’re not all bright as a button at 7 am but some of us don’t want to be networking at 8 pm either.

As the adage goes, you reap what you sow – and with networking its all about commitment.

When it comes to networking, you reap what you sow.
Sow the seeds, nurture the seeds and the seeds will grow.

D is for Don’t Oversell!

I’ll be brief on this one.  When someone asks you what you do, give them a brief overview.  Don’t go spouting prices, availability, tech specifications and waving your diary in their face.  And always remember to reciprocate – and listen! 

Two ears, one mouth.  Nuff said!

E is for Expectations

Newbies to networking.  Please don’t walk in a room, expect everyone in there to drop their existing supplier and switch to you.  Lower those expectations, take time to get to know new introductions.  Book a 121 with anyone you feel there is genuine synergy with (we’ll come on to 121s in Part 3) and maybe over time, they will engage your services.

Barnstorming a meeting once and expecting the room to fall at your feet will lead to disappointment.  It won’t do your professional reputation much good either.

Finally in Part 1, let’s take a look at the letter F.

F is for Farmers

We all like a good farmer when it comes to networking.  Farmers commit to the cause.  They are in it for the long-haul.  They sow seeds, they nurture relationships and over time, those seeds flourish into crops – or in the case of networking, trusted sources to refer to, new clients, friends.

Being a farmer is all about the principle of know, like, trust.  Grow your farm wisely and you can’t go wrong.

In Part 2 we’ll cover G to L. Find out what’s the opposite to a Farmer – and then don’t become one!

Thanks for reading Part 1. Feel free to add your comments – it’s always good to talk.