Read my lips - Networking at events is important

In general, people do business with people. Actually, it's stronger than that, in that people will generally do business with people they trust

Such business relationships create competitive advantage, because provided your partner/supplier doesn't abuse it (in which case they will lose your trust) you will generally award business to people you know and have a positive relationship with. This is why "outsiders" or "newbies" in an existing market often take a considerable time to build market share - they are having to build relationships.

Granted that more stuff is being done online via "self service" stores that allow one to select and, in some cases, configure products. However, it's hard to build a relationship with a website and that website doesn't tend to "appreciate" you coming by the store or asking how your little girl is after recalling you had to cancel the meeting last time because she was sick (true story - a chap I met at a networking event a couple of weeks ago, recalled me saying in conversation that one of my daughters had been unwell. Few days later he dropped me a note to say he hoped things we're improving. Wow - he got my attention and I was quick to acknowledge it.)

In my experience it is possible to build some relationships quickly - you just spark with some people. But in general, relationships take time to develop - people are generally wary. The first step though is actually meeting them. Sounds obvious, yet so many people fail to do the leg work of networking.

On average I go to two events per week. Some are one-offs but the majority are regular event meet ups. Over time you learn which are the "good" ones, from personal experience or from recommendations. Some have crowds where everyone is keen to chat with each other; others need several visits before you become "accepted".

I happen to be fairly outgoing, so am less intimidated about walking up to a group of people I don't know to introduce myself and hopefully have a chat. Personally, I've always tried to focus on the fact that its rare that you have much to lose by trying to begin a discussion, since you'll always know more by doing so than if you don't. Specifically, you will either be able to discount that person from your list of "prospects" or "qualify" them as a person who you might be able to do something with (work, invest, collaborate, meet other people via, enjoy a drink and their pleasant company) .

Easy for me to say perhaps. So, if you are an introvert, you should check out this post on Business Pundit, which provides some suggestions.

You might also be interested in this Harvard Business School article on understanding VCs networks.

posted by John Wilson @ 12:50 AM Permanent Link newsvine reddit


At 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My guess is that one major reason for someone becoming an 'entrepreneur' or a starter of 'his own business' is because of a complete lack of social skills, generally making such people more or less unemployable (I do not mean unemployable as an insult more as a badge of honour). Taking a look at some of the people who have started quite successful businesses you will see that a proportion of those people suffer from major shyness and this has contributed to making them unemployable. Admittedly for every one of those you find the Richard Branson type, who could in no circumstances becalled shy, but whose social skills nevertheless make them unemployable for one reason or another.


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