Business Networking and Collaboration
Although salesXchange can boost your exposure and presence, networking the right way always helps.
Business to Business networking has become one of the most popular methods of new business generation for small to medium sized businesses in the UK, but it is also known for being a "slow-burn" process.
The reason business to business networking is so popular is because the traditional approaches, such as cold calling and telesales, are less effective due to the choices business and non-commercial people have to buy products, i.e. the internet.
Businesses need a different strategy to connect with new customers and the easiest method is through networking contacts and business referrals which generate new business leads.
However, there is a caveat. Business Networking can take quite some time and the rewards can be few and far between, unless it is done properly and with a strategy in mind. This is why we created salesXchange to provide a sales and marketing framework to help businesses sell to each other’s customers.
Business Networking Etiquette Top Ten
Here are some important points to bear in mind when you go business networking:
- Networking is not a get-rich-quick strategy. Your objective is to find businesses you can work with, collaborate with and share common goals
- You need to focus on trying to help other people sell their products or services. When they see how committed you are to helping them, they will begin to reward your efforts
- If you’re new in business, use networking to find your perfect partners with a view to sharing information, prospects and marketing costs
- Plan your 40-60 second introduction. Try not to read from a piece of paper, it all adds to your credibility. Make sure you mention your experience, what you do, what type of customers you are looking for and who you would like to work with
- Plan ahead. If someone is worth speaking to for longer make an appointment there and then. Have your diary on you
- Show interest in the other people speaking (i.e. don’t be texting or playing with your phone); you want everyone in the room to listen to you when you speak so it’s only fair
- Get some brochures printed. If there isn’t enough time to speak to everyone, your brochure will carry your message for much longer than their memories!
- Ask the people you speak to if it’s ok to put them on your mailing list or if they wouldn’t mind you keeping in touch by email. Then follow up regularly
- Be consistent. Once you find a group you enjoy, attend regularly, be a good time keeper, complete your online profile as best you can and finally – enjoy yourself (once you get over the initial “fish out of water” feeling!)
Business to Business Networking Events
There are many different formats for business networking. You can choose which one suits you the best:
- Breakfast Networking – This also refers to lunch and dinner networking clubs too. The typical format for breakfast networking is that you chat and introduce yourself when you arrive, then you sit down for something to eat and during this time each member stands up and introduces themselves for about 40-60 seconds. After this intro session, there may be a 10-minute presentation and then possibly three ten-minute meetings with some of the other members. Each networking group will vary.
- Event Networking Clubs – Not just business networking but activities too. Event Networking Clubs can be in the form of sports (e.g. golf, go-karting, polo or any other activity) exhibitions, seminars, presentations or promotions. Event Networking organisers hold networking sessions to complement their main event or product offering.
- Speed Networking – Best described as a series of mini-meetings, Speed Networking puts business people together for 2 minutes to talk and then it’s on to the next person. You can meet up to five to fifteen contacts in a speed networking session so it’s important you have your pitch worked out.
- Industry or Status Specific Networking – This is where businesses from the same sector or individuals at the same corporate level meet (i.e. CEO/Managing Directors) and share ideas and problems. This is popular because a CEO of a large business would not have much in common with someone running a business from home.
- Online Business Networking – For some it is preferable to start business networking online. Some networking sites are regional, and some are international. Online business networking can be a good way to find out about people first before meeting up with them, especially if you are looking for specific individuals to work with.
Business to Business Networking Groups
This is by no means an exhaustive list of business networking groups, but it does give you an idea of what is available within the UK.
- 4Networking www.4networking.biz
- BNI www.bni-europe.com/uk
- British Chamber of Commerce www.hertschamber.com/networking
- Bucks Fizz www.bucks-fizz.biz
- Business Buzz www.business-buzz.org
- Business Biscotti www.businessbiscotti.co.uk
- Business Club www.the-businessclub.org
- Business Junction (Central London) www.businessjunction.co.uk
- Business Leaders Network www.thebln.com
- Business Connextions www.business-connexions.com
- Business Over Breakfast www.bobclubs.com
- Cross Reference www.networkinggerrardscross.co.uk
- Effective Business Network www.ebn.uk.com
- Fabnetworking fabnetworking.co.uk
- G9 www.g9networking.co.uk
- NRG Networks www.nrg-networks.co.uk
- Viva www.viva-networking.co.uk
- The Good Business Group www.thegbg.uk
- The Business Network www.business-network.co.uk
- The Network www.networkbucks.co.uk
- 10-12 Business Club www.10-12businessclub.co.uk
Business to Business Networking Sites
Before you begin your foray into Business Networking, visiting business to business networking sites is probably a good place to start.
There are several networking sites at your fingertips and most of them are free and allow you to post up pretty comprehensive information about you and your business.
The general idea is to present your business online to other business people who you could connect with. You would get to know each other by either speaking on the telephone, meeting up and generally supporting each other’s businesses through referrals, recommendation and possibly sales.
Business Networking Online Sites
Many of the online business networking sites also organise their own face-to-face networking events so it’s not all done online.
- UK Business Circle www.ukbusinesscircle.co.uk
- Connectbuzz www.connectbuzz.co.uk
- LinkedIn www.linkedin.com
- Xing www.xing.com
Business Networking Directory Web Sites
Find out what's going on in your part of the world and get networking!
- Best of Hertfordshire www.thebestof.co.uk/regional/hertfordshire/
- Find Networking Events www.findnetworkingevents.com
- Networking in Bucks www.networkinginbucks.co.uk
We know you don't want to be a Marketing Guru?
You’re in business for yourself, you’re an expert in your field and you’re at the top of your game. If that wasn’t enough you’re also expected to be a sales and marketing guru too – and that can be really tough!
There’s a fine balance between delivering a great service and keeping new business rolling in, we know, it’s not easy.
Whether you’re new to business or not, the internet may have changed access to information, but it hasn’t changed the way people buy.
What are the options?
In just a moment we’ll explain how we've changed the way business, customers and salespeople can interact and how we can help sky-rocket your profits, but first, we'll take a look at why sales is now so difficult…
How a sofa is relevant to a business!
Bear with me...When you decide to buy a new sofa, you don’t get hit by a bolt of lightning and suddenly rush out to the local store and buy one. Instead, you gradually decide over a period of time, i.e. when the old sofa becomes so unbearable, you then go and start looking for a new one.
It’s no different in business. Eventually, when a problem has caused enough of a problem, someone decides to start looking at a solution - THIS is the point you want to be noticed.
Will my business be safe if I buy this new…?
Then there's the other issue. When you're buying for your own business, there’s the added concern about the affect the new product or service will have on it. We ask ourselves the same questions:
- Will the benefits outweigh the pain of implementing it?
- Can I be bothered to install it (Is the reward great enough? Will it really deliver an ROI?)
- If I leave things as they are, at least I know what to expect every day
Although it's your job to assure the customer about the above, the fact still remains that he/she needs to know "what's in it for them" before they make the next move.
- The decision to change is driven by the level of pain
- The decision who to buy from invariably starts with the Internet as 60% of decisions are made before someone even speaks to you!
- And it's at this point you want to be visible on your prospects’ radar - And yes, it's possible...
How to get more business, no, really!
You might have heard it before, but just in case you haven’t, here goes, firstly you must understand your customer and by that I mean:
- Know their pain, don’t try and guess, ask them and find out
- Know their gender (yes it does matter)
- Know their history, their business progress and successes
- Know their relationships with others, from joint ventures to social media connections
- Know their connections with others within their organisations and try to determine who the decision makers are
- Know their activities, in the press, online and locally
- Don’t stalk them, but know where they hang out, read their magazines, find out what’s happening in their industry
Once you’ve got an idea about who you’re actually targeting, you will be that much closer to securing more sales. This approach can also be viewed as Account Based Marketing – ABM, although this strategy is best applied with the use of marketing automation software and the buy-in of everyone in the selling company.
Now, you can start sending out mailshots, start cold-calling and phoning!!!
Collaboration and syndicate marketing is 21st century selling
Do you think that Stage 1 and Stage 2 are a bit long winded? a bit too intense? a bit too much effort? I agree. Stage One is ok, but Stage Two is out of date and not what customers want. They’re fed up with cold calls, meaningless direct mail and all the other damp squib attempts at attracting them. They expect something more. So, what's the answer…salesXchange of course! Check out our website, give us a call and we'll explain how you can get your business into a syndicate marketing group.
About the Author
Nigel is the Founder & Managing Director of salesXchange and has been helping SMEs for over 25 years to develop their marketing, technologies and infrastructure to generate more profits, more efficiently. His recent book book "Integrate! The Essential Business Technology & Marketing Handbook" can be downloaded from Amazon.