How Innovative is Your Business Networking Strategy?

by Colin Kennedy - Jan 02, 2013

If you’re a business owner, or in an executive position at a small/medium sized organization, business development is part of your job description – even if though it might not be explicitly stated on any piece of paper...

We live in a truly global network.

© Neuron Global

You might have a sales and marketing team dedicated to generating and closing new business opportunities, but that doesn’t mean that you can afford to ignore the role that you’re expected to play as one of the “faces” of your organization. As a senior executive, you might have access to certain individuals that your sales force can’t easily reach. Or you might be in a better position to engage in dynamic, business-building discussions with a potential partner. Whatever the case may be, it behooves you to spend a bit of time thinking about your own personal business networking strategy.

Networking is often the lynchpin of a busy executive’s business development strategy because it doesn’t have to take up a lot of time, yet it can be incredibly impactful. If you don’t believe me, maybe you need to stop going to so many generic cocktail receptions or unfocused “pitch parties”. If you’re looking for suggestions, below is a short list of some of my personal networking best practices. Now I don’t claim to be a master networker...despite this, I’ve still experienced networking success by keeping these concepts in mind:

Align Yourself With a Cause You Care About

Networking without a higher purpose can feel like an aimless endeavor, but when you’re participating in something that matters to you it becomes immediately worthwhile. Whether it’s attending a charity function, an alumni event or something else, if it’s personally important to you I can almost guarantee that it won’t be a waste of your time. And when you take that possibility off the table, you’re more likely to relax and connect in a meaningful way with the people around you. Trust me, I’ve experienced it both ways, and nothing is worse than showing up to a networking event that you’re not excited about attending.


Expand Your Definition of Success

I know plenty of people who think that the only successful networking outcome is the identification of a new sales lead. The problem is, no one likes to be sold to! So even if you find this person, their guard will probably go up when they realize you’re trying to pitch something, 5 minutes after meeting them. Sounds like quite the conundrum, right? Instead, expand your focus to connect with vendors, potential partners, and direct competitors. I’m seeing it more and more: people who are open to talking to direct competitors often find that there’s more synergy than conflict in their relationship. Lots of times these people are the ones who know your next customer, but for whatever reason it might not be the right fit for them. I’m not trying to say that it’s a bad idea to connect with prospective clients, just that you might be opening the door to a multitude of new clients by developing a relationship with the guy/gal who you thought was your direct competitor!


Use Technology to Hone in on the Right Events and Groups

Most networking occurs as an extension of a specific group. With the ubiquity of sites like LinkedIn and Meetup, almost every group that has a networking component will have a page for you to check out. These are really helpful because they can show you how big the group is, how active the members are, what their personal and group interests are, and so on. This page will provide you with clues on whether or not you’ll be meeting the “right kind” of people should you decide to attend an event, and it will also give a bit of insight into how invested the various group members are to the networking cause. Tip: lots of activity is a good sign!

Networking has been around forever, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to add some new wrinkles to your approach if you feel it’s become stale. With that said, I encourage you to give one or more of these concepts a try and let me know what you think. And please feel free to share any ideas/strategies that you might have on the subject – I’m always looking to become a better net-worker!

Written by Colin Kennedy. Colin is a Founder and Executive Vice President of Business Development at Neuron Global