This blog post complements the Inspired Selling Podcast featuring Cathy Dunbabin. If you prefer listening to audio, check out the podcast here. If reading is more your thing, this post has got you covered with all the key points.
About Cathy Dunbabin
She’s been described as a “business network expert”. She was also voted ‘Most Influential Woman of the year in Oxfordshire in 2014’. And having worked with hundreds of business professionals to help them create solid networking strategies that have positively influenced their revenue, success and professional development, we are well within our rights to refer to Cathy as the ‘queen of networking’.
Some people misunderstand networking
A strong professional network is integral for both business growth and personal development. But the thought of going to a networking event fills many people with dread. Then there are those who kind of miss the point and attend networking events with the sole purpose of delivering a sales pitch.
The bottom line is networking is all about relationships. And that’s what makes it relatively straightforward and easy. But that doesn’t stop people getting it wrong sometimes (like in the case of the sales pitch first networkers).
The right way to approach networking
As we’ve already mentioned, approaching networking with a sales angle in mind isn’t going to produce the best results. You’ll find that people close up like a clam if you start bombarding them with information about yourself and lining them up for a sale right off the bat.
Instead, go with the flow and adopt a mindset that says “I’m here to primarily develop new relationships”. As these relationships develop, opportunities will naturally arise. And if you have cemented people’s faith in your abilities and given them adequate reason to trust you, those opportunities may result in business coming your way.
It’s also worth noting that networking is a reciprocal agreement. So you shouldn’t expect all one-way traffic heading in your direction when it comes to being referred. You must be willing to reciprocate.
Finally, just because you’ve paid a fee to be a member of a formal networking group doesn’t entitle you to be referred to other people. You need to earn that right by behaving in a way that befits such a reality. For example, your willingness/generosity to support other people and your ability to educate others about what you do, how you do it, etc. are all things that can help boost your standing in networking groups.
When it comes to networking, your reputation is one of your biggest assets.
Choosing the right networking group(s)
Now one of the keys to great networking is ensuring you are hanging out with the right people. That is, people who not only bring out the best in you but are also receptive to developing relationships. Ideally, these people should also be interested directly in your products/services, or know people who might be.
The networking businesses Cathy runs with her business partner Sonia are very specific in the members they look to attract: business owners, partners, directors, etc. The reason for that is because these are the individuals who are in a position to make decisions.
Employees are inevitably on a career path. Opportunities arise and then they move on. That’s why it can be frustrating if you have spent time forging a relationship with someone and then they go off to work somewhere else.
In Cathy and Sonia’s groups, someone is only offered a membership if they are deemed to be a good fit and potentially beneficial for the group. It’s one of the many ways Cathy and Sonia ensure they are catering to their clients and adding genuine value.
So if you’re going to network, choose events where the people you want to meet are hanging out. Otherwise, your efforts and time could be ultimately wasted.
Try different groups to start with. Get a feel for them and figure out what’s a good fit. Look at the other members and assess whether you are going to be able to forge a mutually beneficial relationship.
Top networking tips
Be mindful that some networking groups require a significant amount of time and effort. If you are unable to make such commitments, maybe they are not right for you. Always be aware of what you can invest.
If you don’t give it your best shot or can’t commit to attend every meeting, you won’t reap the full benefits. That’s why it can be good to attend one really focussed networking group, plus a couple that you drop by here and there. Never overcommit yourself.
Remember, it’s not a sales environment. You’re there to develop relationships and the fruit those relationships bear will depend on the foundations you build. In the same way that a house built on strong foundations will last for decades, relationship-based networking will afford the best opportunities.
If you’re ever not sure about how to break into groups once you’ve entered a networking event, look around for the ones that seem a little lighter. For example, the groups where people are laughing and chatting rather than the ones where everyone is head down and focussed.
If networking events make you feel nervous, one of the best ways to overcome this is by taking a few minutes out in the car park before you walk in to remind yourself why you’re there. Psych yourself up for the event and enter with realistic expectations/goals. Go with the flow and see how it goes. You’re under no obligation to collect/hand out X number of business cards.
And once you become a networking veteran, please look out for new members. Remember how you felt when you attended a networking event for the first time and encourage the newbies to get involved.
Connect with Cathy
Cathy Dunbabin is the co-founder of Opendoorz, a networking organisation geared towards established business owners, partners and directors. She also runs The Business Spa, which caters for new business owners and solopreneurs.
If you want to find out more about either organisation, or any of the other amazing stuff she’s doing in the world of networking, connect with Cathy on LinkedIn.
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You’ll come away with not just a high level strategy for your business, but also feeling inspired, renewed and re-energised to drive even more revenue going forward.