Success can be all about who you know, not what you know. And for politicians, businessmen and social butterflies, that can mean shaking a lot of hands and kissing a lot of cheeks. But networking for the sake of it doesn’t always lead to conversions, and according to Angus McCallister, COO at the Australian Institute of Management, that’s because businesses aren’t set up to invest in networking.
“If you’re networking activities are rarely bearing fruit, despite spending hours at events, meeting people, distributing cards and swapping numbers, it’s time to ask yourself why,” he said. Here are some do’s and don’ts from the pro-networker.
1) Don’t just pay lip service to networking
Encourage your staff to attend events, even when they fall into work hours or can’t be squeezed into a lunchbreak. If your business has the foresight to see that networking is a vital part of business development, it’s up to management to ensure your staff are given time to engage in this important activity, without them feeling the need to make excuses when they leave work to attend an event.
2) Don’t assume that networking is exclusive to the C-Suite
Your CEO or top sales person might not be the best representative for your company. A middle manager who is fanatical about golf will be a better networker at a corporate golf event than a CEO with a poor swing. Match people to events that suit their personalities, and your staff will make better connections.
3) Don’t forget networking requires skills…
… and therefore training. Train your staff on the principles of networking and business generation. It’s not just about trading cards and talking shop. You need to build genuine relationships. Make sure your ‘ambassadors’ are ready to do the job.
4) Do capture information
It might boil down to a well organised rolodex, but make sure your staff are recording and remembering the contacts they meet. Make notes on the cards as you meet people—you will lose track of who is who at a big event. The resulting database has the potential to be one of your best networking investments.
5) Don’t just network in the down times
Networking should be a regular activity, of strategic significance all year round. Make it a priority and it will become an essential part of your business development.
Next week, between 1-5 August is the AIM National Networking Week. A range of networking events and activities will be held in Sydney and Canberra throughout the week. These events are free to AIM members and available for purchase by non-members.