How to Choose the Right Type of Networking

You may have recently made a decision to leave your corporate job to become a freelance associate or even for the braver, to start your own company. Inevitably, this will be an exciting time as you are now in “full control” of your daily schedule.

Everyday you spend time on producing new products or sourcing licenses for material that is already established, boxed up and ready to sell. You are already a great facilitator and have experience in managing large project development programmes but you know there is a skill set missing!

At this stage when you just want to go and deliver your products the reality kicks in. You suddenly realize, how can I do this when I don’t have any clients or even worse a good lead to a potential client.

Unfortunately, this is not uncommon but you should have done something earlier. “I just didn’t think about market and selling”, I hear you say!

When you first start up on your own, the thought of marketing and selling can be very daunting and frighten you to death. It also takes a lot of your time and energy, but if it’s not done strategically then you are opening yourself up to failure.

The challenging part is breaking down your barriers or eradicating your self-fulfilling prophecy that marketing and selling it is a complicated science. Think of the last time you bought something from someone. Yes you obviously needed it, or did the person that sold it to you influence your decision to buy. You trusted that person, had great rapport and felt that you were listened to when discussing your needs.

So in short, marketing and selling is about building relationships and utilising all the skills that you already have as a trainer. The next question that you need to clarify is what medium of marketing is the best and how are you going to do it. Unfortunately, there are too many variables to discuss that will be different for each specific requirement and individual goal.

The important part to this answer is asking yourself what are the long-term goals of your business within a realistic time frame. This may be different for everyone, ranging from revenue and profit margins to business growth, or even market share within your geographical region.

Now, I am not going to explain or convince you what the best medium of how to market yourself is as a trusted trainer, but instead I have chosen one that can be extremely effective if done right, but also damaging if you don’t start with your end in mind.

Networking events are something that you either dread or enjoy and can be extremely beneficial to the success of your business. On the negative side, if you have not planned to attend the right event, it can suck all of your energy or worse, damage your reputation. Furthermore, a lot of people have a fear of networking due to having to talk to people in an influential way that keeps their attention span focused on you for at least a few minutes.

At the early stages of your ‘start-up’ there is a temptation to find as many networking events as possible. Generally, these events are normally very early in the morning, filled with many other start-ups offering the same thing. This happened to me when I first moved to the UAE and eventually I realised I wasn’t getting a lot from speaking to removals company or a foot injury specialist! Although I found these contacts interesting, they were not really the clients to benefit my Leadership Development Company. So, here are a few things I learnt and changed to improveme my networking:

• Network with your target market. It is very rare that you have the right decision makers at some of these events that are filled with small start-up companies.

• Invest in the high-end events that can cost up to $2000. You are more likely going to be mixing with the main corporate decision makers.

• Annually plan your networking events. Training Magazine Middle East is a great resource for this now.

• Always carry a few business cards with you to social gatherings. I have gained more leads by meeting influential people through friends and friends of friends.

• Be authentic by being yourself with a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity.

• Avoid focusing on trying to sell at an event, concentrate on building a memorable few minutes that leaves an impact.

In summary, I am a great believer that people like people that are like them. Work on rapport and use all those great soft skills you already have as a trainer to build quality relationships.

Steve is the Founder and Managing Director of Mission Command FZE. He has have over 15 years of extensive international experience in Execution and developing the competencies and behaviours of professionals in leadership roles and high performance teams. His work is always pragmatic, and contextualised to the clients needs and generally focused on how you can perform and think better under pressure. Mission Command’s approach is analytic, creative and energetic, which motivates and unlocks the potential in human performance. His excellent stakeholder management skills and the ability to think outside the box has led to repeat business, referrals and a strong customer satisfaction record.

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