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Your best tips on effective networking

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Tis the season to say thanks! Did someone make a huge difference to your business this year? How? Send in their name and tell us the story and you could WIN the last of the five HP LaserJet P1006 printers! We’re given one away every day this week.

On Thursday we asked for your best tip on networking for new business. The best tip came from a member of the SmartCompany community who wishes to remain anonymous, but her tip is at the top of the list below. She has won an HP LaserJet P1006 printer.

At lunchtime Monday we will announce the winner of Friday’s prize of an HP LaserJet P1006 printer. 

 

Here are all the tips from our readers on Thursday on how to network effectively.

Best networking tip: Involve others in your conversation. If you see people hovering around your circle, invite them to join in the conversation. This is especially helpful for someone who is shy or new to the industry; but who nonetheless might be a great contact. They’ll be grateful to you, and you just never know who they might be.

Best networking tip: I find that reaffirmation of your position in people’s minds at this busy time of year opens the door to new opportinuties.Offer them by phone, yes phone, best wishes for the season. Simply phone and ask if they are up to date with business to start the new year. If you listen they may provide an opportunity to your business to assist theirs.Or you may have know a business that that can also assist. Assisting solving their problem places you high in their thoughts. It is the relationships that build networks.The best networkers do the most listening and build knowledge.
– Jim Outridge

Best networking tip: Listen carefully for ways you and your business can help them reach their 2008 business goals.
– Faye Aforozis

Best networking tip: Less than 5% of people follow up after a networking event. Following up by sending them a card or giving them a call to meet up again is a sure way to stand out from all the other people they meet that day.
– Angelique Milojevic

Best networking tip: Working in a classy serviced office you say hi to everyone in the tea room getting a coffee, and that’s it. Informal drinks last week changed all that; we were all amazed at the synergy we had and the joint business we can do. It’s going to be a weekly event in the new year!
– Phil Halfpenny

Best networking tip: Never say no to a Christmas party or a dinner. It’s one of the best ways to network and get your card around. Personally, I have found it very useful; some of my best deals were done informally. Get your clients when they’re least aware, maybe after an eggnog or two and BAM, you’ve got yourself a winner!
– Maneesha Bhullar

Best networking tip: Networking is always about community. Being personally and directly involved in community events shows you are personable, approachable and care. If you get an invitation to an event, reply and if possible attend; it’s business suicide to accept and not show. This then incorporates the oldest form of advertising that can make your business a success from the start; word of mouth, which can make or break your business.
– Brett Gabel

Best networking tip: My best networking effort was to hire a Harley Davidson motorbike, a photographer and a model on roller blades and take them to a business seminar. The model skated around handing out invitations for a free photograph on the Harley. Nearly all of the attendees had their photo taken and everyone at the seminar quickly found out who I was and what my business did.

Best networking tip: Don’t show up to every event! People will get sick of hearing the same stories/problems (depending on your attitude). When you select events to attend make sure the important people are going, by calling them before. When at social events, not meetings, remember to not talk business; the relationship will develop easier if they think that’s not all you’re after – they want trust!

Best networking tip: To be able to describe your unique solution or service to another in 15 words is essential for any form of networking opportunity to realise results. To establish yourself in networks as an expert of a specialty leaves an impression for positive future contact. To treat each interaction overtly as a sales opportunity leaves the wrong impression. Networking without purpose can consume an enormous amount of time and not yield any useful contact. Being extremely selective with the network opportunities prevents time wastage. Many “networking” opportunities are simply a sales pitch of a conference organiser that will not provide you with leads. Where do you network? Answer: Where can you offer solutions?
– Matthew Addison

Best networking tip: When starting up in a new business it can be extremely advantageous to join the local council’s business network. These monthly meetings not only provide information but the opportunity to network with other businesses in the area; extremely valuable.

Best networking tip: I have tried this before and it works a treat. I love cooking, so I did this myself, but you could buy the “treats”. I baked some gourmet biscuits for my top clients and presented them as a Christmas thank-you hamper, but in addition I provided a second hamper for them to pass on to one of their top clients with my company’s contact details. I got great introductions to new clients – who were stoked to receive a special gift – while also being endorsed by one of my current clients. I still get requests for the biscuits.

Best networking tip: Experience tells us that the best way to network (and that is not linking a whole lot of computers together) is to look back into your past. It’s easier to meet someone new when you have an experience or something to share. To get something you need to share something!!
– Gary Shaw

Best networking tip: Join a business chamber as they run many events covering a raft of business issues where you have a high chance of meeting business people from all industries and people at all levels. You can also tap into a wide range of services and contacts that can give you legitimate entry into events and groups you previously may not have had the opportunity to join if you contacted them directly.

Best networking tip: Forget about what you are selling for a second. Get to know the contact on a personal level first. Focus on developing this relationship – even if it takes a whole year. By the time you cut through the noise, they know who you are, what you are like, what you offer and the fact that you aren’t a pushy sales person. The new business will come – just don’t push people away with your desperation to sell.
– Dan Hayes

Best networking tip: Working in the agricultural sector is a prime example of the need to network and keep good business relationships. When things are a little slow or stressful it can be as simple as organising an open invitation BBQ to get people together. Being a relaxing thing, everyone tends to be more open and welcome to discuss “shop” and mingle. It’s a fantastic way to meet new people and discuss new ideas and developments.
– Brad Caulfield

Best networking tip: Christmas race meetings offer fantastic networking opportunities. Why not sponsor a race or a “fashions on the field”? Or better still, purchase a marquee for your company’s Christmas party… not only will your employees love it, but invitations can be sent to your valued customers (or prospective customers), and it sends a great message to the public that you’re involved in the community. This could also be a great chance to display what your business offers (ie. catering, fashion, landscaping…). You’d really be amazed at the number of people you network with at these functions.

Best networking tip: I believe a good tip is going through telephone directories etc and have potential customers invited to a business breakfast. This may save time by giving one presentation to a number of potential clients.

Best networking tip: In our cafe there’s a glass bowl for everyone to throw in their business cards – we give away a free lunch every month to encourage more cards in. We strongly believe in supporting local business and in turn want these businesses to support us. When there’s a service we need we only use cards from the bowl. This has generated good will and trust and happy returning customers.

Best networking tip: For women entering new businesses, the VECCI Women in Business Network. A room packed full of ideas, support, enthusiasm, like-minded business people and future customers.

Best networking tip: Be attractive and flirtatious! Or if you can’t be, then send in someone that can!
– Lee

Best networking tip: Bring lots of business cards to swap with the valuable contacts you meet at the networking event you have decided to attend! People often forget them!

Best networking tip: For networking for new business, I go to trade shows as I find that people gathering there are of a like mind to me. I don’t turn up to everything but turn up to most. Most invitations end up farmed out to lesser staff unless I particularly want to go. Talk to your friends and aquaintances and workmates as you’ll be surprised at the leads that turns up for you to follow; it really works.
– Phillip Cunningham

Best networking tip: Networking at Christmas differs little from good networking the rest of the year. Be sincere, make a clear connection, pay attention to the person you’re in conversation with, see your meeting as the first step towards a relationship built on trust and respect, and don’t expect or push for a sale on the spot. The only thing you might want to do is to acknowledge cultural difference; many people don’t celebrate Christmas the way you do, if at all. Also for some it may be a sad time that reminds them of lost loved ones. Remember your business manners, follow up after the holiday break, and enjoy!

Best networking tip: Dress up in a Santa suit and you’ll be sure to generate plenty of activity your way.
– Owen

Best networking tip: Don’t approach every person as a potential deal, then look obviously dissapointed when 95% of introductions don’t turn out that way. Instead, be interested in everyone you meet and ask yourself the question “Whom would they represent an opportunity for”. You can then do favours for other people in your network, giving you mindshare.
– Brendan Lewis

Best networking tip: Make your Christmas party an “Amazing Race” type event and include various businesses around town as points to pick up clues – a small investment in T-shirts or hats means that your name is spread around town. An added bonus is branding of your business and team building in your own company.

Best networking tip: Take a small group of prospective clients out to lunch from different industries. People love talking about their individual stories and to be made to feel important.
– Julie Muscat

Best networking tip: Take the initiative and organise your own local business breakfast that focuses on using local service providers. Find a local restaurant that provides a continental breakfast and offer them $1 per head above the retail rate. Ask them to identify three services they use where the service provider is more than five kilometres away and ask them if they would try a local supplier if you could find one. Approach these local suppliers and invite them to your breakfast (show them the menu and price) and repeat the exercise with each local provider asking them to identify three services supplied by remote vendors. Organise your seating so each business owner sits opposite the person willing to give their service a try. Organise place cards to show three main services they offer and three services required from a local trader. Advise all to bring plenty of business cards.
– John Birse

Best networking tip: The best tip is to tell people that you will be celebrating Christmas on the first day after the Australia Day holiday break when everyone is getting back to work, fresh and not having many social events on their calendar.

Best networking tip: Christmas isn’t usually a good time for networking as most people are meeting to have fun. But there’s no reason to miss an opportunity. Here are a few tips: Get to the event on time or slightly ahead of time so you can get some conversations in before the music starts. Dress professionally and don’t drink too much. Don’t just talk about business. Try and get the person to talk about themselves and ask questions, particularly if you don’t know them; this will make them feel more comfortable with you and you will be remembered more readily. Do swap business cards. Create a first impression, then they won’t forget you. Follow up some time after the event with some useful information that you know would interest them. The idea is to build a relationship with them (which may or may not lead to new business). Surprisingly if you do make a good impression at the event and in your follow up, they may refer you to other people in their network who may become your clients instead!
– Wendy McWilliams

Best networking tip: I say party hard, but stay off the alcoholic beverages. You get to meet people while they are in a relaxed mood, and perhaps with their guard down. People, although maybe not in the most “business” of minds, may be more receptive to change in the new year. What the heck – life was meant to be lived, why miss a good time, and you don’t have to drink to have a good time.

Best networking tip: Regardless of whether you are a rookie or veteran business owner, networking has a major role to play in propelling your business to greater success. Networking is the art of building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships and it happens at home, at work, in the community and with everyone around you. It’s about having expectation of others and meeting their expectations of you. Unfortunately networking is not a job that you can outsource or pay someone to do for you. Regardless of whether you’re an employee, employer or business owner or whether you’re marketing yourself, a product or a service, the rules remain the same. You need to start off with a sound strategic networking model. And if you are not playing by the rules and giving as much as you are taking then just like everything else in life you’ll be dropped from the game and never have a win. Tips on progressing your networking skills? 1. Spend time with people you like and people who like you; these are the people you would want to help and vise versa. These are your mutually beneficial relationships. 2. Stay away from energy vampires and mix with energised and positive people; remember you become like those you hang out with. You will always be judged by the company you keep. 3. Make time for people to who you can offer value. These are people you can assist even if they are not assisting you at the time. People who network make things happen and they know other people who make things happen.
– Lynette Palmen

Best networking tip: A large percentage of my business has been built up through networking and word of mouth advertising. I am a member of www.bni.com.au which is a structured 1.5 hour networking breakfast or lunch. In this time I build relationships with the other 20 or so other members who during the week act as my “sales team” and work on bringing genuine business referrals to myself and the group. So if you have a “givers gain” attitude you can only win. Visitors are always welcome and most groups throughout Australia will be running their last meeting for the year this week. I strongly suggest finding your local chapter through the website www.bni.com.au where “missing breakfast can be detrimental to your wealth”.
– Belinda El Boher

Best networking tip: At networking and Christmas business socials, first ask the other person what they do and their organisation. If they are potential customers, give them the 30 second description, ask for a card and if it’s OK to contact them in the new year. Find out if they are taking leave, and call a couple of days after they get back.

Best networking tip: Christmas is the time of year when everyone is social beyond normality, so never discount anyone you meet just because they may not seem to be your target market. Who knows who they will have dinner with, spend Christmas with or reconnect with over the season? The key is to be concise and clear about what it is you actually do to everyone you meet and make sure you listen to everyone you speak to so you can return the favour! Referral really is the best form of networking.
– Kim McGuinness

Best networking tip: Always have business cards with you and don’t be afraid to give them out. Remember people’s names when you are introduced to them. Impressing people in small ways like this works wonders.
– Mark Lewis

Best networking tip: Join a business group that your key customers are members of. Become part of the organising board/committee; it is thankless task and most people don’t like doing it. Be seen to be putting something back into your customers industry because it is a demonstration that you are serious about servicing their industry.We haven’t had to advertise for years because of the strength of leads coming through this type of networking.
– James Taylor

Best networking tip: Be yourself! Say hello, be available, ask for referrals. You cannot be everywhere at once but you can certainly provide feedback, advice, assistance and look forward to catching up in the new year.
– Steph Rawnsley

Best networking tip: Don’t go looking for business for yourself, but looking for business you can pass on to others.
– Mike Avey

For more Tips and Ideas see our Business Information Section.

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