Business networking offers you the opportunity to form relationships with other business people as well as potential clients. Done well, business networking establishes a healthy give-and-take rapport and helps you to grow your company and increase your bottom line. The potential for abuse of these relationships is all too real, however, if you fail to operate within ethical guidelines. Here are a few tips:
- Be a friend first. Instead of looking only for opportunities for assistance, offer to help someone else in his quest to find what he needs. Refer others to businesses that you have found offer high quality products or have exceptional customer service. By doing so, you will have established two friendly contacts. One in the person that you gave the referral to and another in the company that you recommended.
- Honesty is the best policy. Never inflate your company's ability to get a job done. In fact, always try to exceed the expectations of your clients. By doing so, you will have an ongoing supply of happy customers who will tell others about you in a glowing fashion.
- Don't be shy. Although no one wants to hear constant bragging, do take every opportunity to "sell" your company and all that it has to offer potential clients and customers. Be sure that you follow up with those who express an interest.
- Show and tell. In addition to telling people about your services, be sure to actively seek opportunities to show them what you've got. If you sell terrific gadgets, offer to demonstrate their usefulness whenever possible. If your company is service-oriented, donate a portion of your time to high visibility clients.
- Join the club. There is a constant increase in organized opportunities for business to business "meet and greet" events sponsored by organizations specifically designed for people interested in business networking. If you are looking for networking opportunities, start with a quick online search. Simply go to your favorite search engine and type in "business networks" to display a wide assortment. If you'd like to narrow the field, add the type of business you are in or the name of the largest city near you.
- Don't take what isn't yours. Never use your networking contacts to steal clients or business ideas from others. Your good reputation is one of your most valuable assets; do all that you can to protect it.
- Partner with the best. Once you have formed a contact list, be sure to align yourself with other companies that employ ethical standards of operation. The last thing you want is to bring down your hard-earned reputation for excellence by forming a partnership of sorts with less than reputable companies or individuals.
- Stay in touch. When you recommend or refer someone to a networking partner, be sure to let them know that you have done so. A quick phone call or email is all that it takes to keep your company's name on their minds!