Part One of a Two-Part Series on B2B Partnerships and Why Networking Doesn’t Have to Suck!
Why Networking for Business Partnerships is Vital
Part Two in A Two Part Series on Building B2B Partnerships and Why Networking Doesn’t Have to Suck!
In the first part of this series, we discussed why and how B2B partnerships can be critical to your business. In part two of this series, we’re discussing networking (the key component to developing B2B partnerships) and why networking for business partnerships is vital!
Confession: I am a reformed hater of networking. When I first started networking, I absolutely dreaded it. As an introvert, the idea of walking into crowded rooms, making chitchat is something out of a nightmare. But I also understood that in order for my business to gain more visibility and thrive, I’d need to put myself out there.
As I worked with a business coach (and as I began to understand my introversion), I began to actually enjoy networking. Today, I love networking and consider myself a connector and community building pro.
Here’s what I’ve learned over the years as I’ve networked for business partnerships:
Keep in mind that networking for business partnerships is an investment. Attending one networking event doesn’t build trust or lasting relationships. Networking requires a consistent investment of time and energy. Realistically assess how much time you want to devote each week or month and regularly commit to building relationships, building your community.
If you’re not a morning person, don’t force yourself to go to early morning networking events. You won’t be on your A-game and you will not enjoy it. Seek out happy hour or evening networking events.
If you’re an introvert who doesn’t enjoy large crowds or small talk, seek out networking opportunities that limit size and/or have more structured break-out type of activities, so you’re not stuck making small talk to endless quantities of strangers.
If you don’t enjoy transactional types of networking (i.e. where you’re required to attend all meetings and you’re required to generate referrals, etc.), look for more informal networking opportunities that either have a community slant and/or networking opportunities that do not focus on tracking referrals, closed business, and a number of 1:1 meetings accomplished. There are networking groups who focus on ways to build community, giving back, and who encourage slowly developing relationships (i.e. they don’t track how many referrals you’ve generated, they don’t require you to attend every meeting, etc.).
Relationships are a give and take. When you are networking, go in with an attitude of, “how can I be of service to others?”. While we all want to get something out of networking, anytime I meet someone who has an attitude of “me, me, me”, I run for the hills; chronic takers are not who I want to develop long term relationships with.
Be clear when delivering your pitch. Pitches evolve as your business (and audience) change, but always strive to have a concise, clear pitch of who you are, what you do, why your service/product is of benefit, and what you’re seeking. Practice confidently delivering your pitch in an engaging way, leaving room for those who you interact with you to ask you follow up questions.
After a networking event, follow up with the people you met. Connect on LinkedIn and/or send a follow up email. But don’t hunt down your new contacts. No one enjoys being added to newsletter lists without permission or constantly being harangued about your services or products. Think of the follow up as cultivation, not hunting or poaching. When appropriate, schedule more one on one time with the contacts you met that you’d like to develop a relationship with. One on one follow-ups can be time consuming, so realistically assess who you want to continue chatting with and how much time you actually have for these follow up chats. Typically I allot one day a week for follow-ups. I choose a day where I know my energy isn’t particularly high to complete thought intensive tasks, instead, my energy would be better spent on cultivating relationships.
As mentioned in the first part of this series: *no business is an island. *Our businesses don’t operate in a vacuum. To generate leads, to build awareness of your company it’s vital that you show up, network, and build relationships. With regular, thoughtful networking you’ll develop trusted B2B relationships and from there, you’ll build a community. Your community, over time, will become a trusted source of support, referrals, and strategic partnerships
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