Networking is absolutely essential for small business owner who wants their business to thrive. Relationships with like-minded entrepreneurs in related fields can go a long way to ensuring success. It provides a business with a partner who can help identify new clients and grow.

In order to make a success off of the networking exercise, it is essential that you be known personally. It is your personality and face that are representative of your company’s values. But the greater your exposure – the more opportunities will present themselves. Every single social or business interaction is an opportunity.

But are there other reasons that networking will allow a business to rise to the top of the competitive pile, here are some?

Lead Generation.

A full business funnel is a key to success – and networking gives you new leads. Opportunity knocks when your network – make sure you are ready to answer.

Always be professional when you are following up on the leads provided by your business network – after all, you are a reflection of the reputation of that lead supplier. Be courteous and wait for the opportunity to present your services or products – do not force the issue. I would highly recommend seeing ‘BNI Surrey‘.

Learn Best Practices.

There are often people in your growing network circle who have been in business for a lot longer than you have – learn from them. They are your best source of information on the best business practices or how to gauge your success (or the quality of products and services) through the use of industry benchmarks. Their input can be invaluable in refining your strategy and business practices.

A great example is the restaurant business. Interfacing with others is a fabulous way to identify new trends and practices (for instance in floor management or billing software)

Trend Analysis.

The key to a successful entre pretrial business is to stay one step ahead of the competition. You have to be on the sharp edge of exactly what is going on in the industry. Those contacts that you make through networking can put you on the inside track and provide you with a distinct competitive edge.

However – the fact remains that networking is both a skill and an art. There are many who can fit into any crowd – they are naturally gifted – but practice makes perfect, even if those you are about to network with are strangers.

There are systems that will help any business owner make the most of any networking opportunity. Write lists of contacts, memorize people’s names and interests. When in doubt, finish that initial conversation and write down a single conversational fact about them or their business. If you know who you are going to be meeting you will have the knowledge to break the ice.

Practice being friendly and learn the art of striking up conversations. Learn the trick to remembering people’s names that you meet. Get a system; write something specific about a person on the back of their business card so you can remember them when you get back to your office.

Confidence is Key.

Practice makes perfect. As you continue to build your confidence you will find that interaction becomes easier and easier. And you will quickly begin to realize that the old adage is true – ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Talk to people that you know at trade shows and at other events – you will see your business grow as trust increases.

Networking may take you outside of your comfort zone – but it will push your boundaries. Before you even realize it, your network will have grown. And you will make business connections (and possibly friendships) that will last a lifetime. These are folk that will be there when you need advice – and will stand by you in the hard times.

Influential Connections.

That brings us neatly to the idea of influential connections. That salesman that you meet at a convention may just have a connection higher up on the corporate ladder. And he or she might be able to provide an introduction and so your network grows – and includes people who make the real decisions.

Networks are viral They grow exponentially with every new connection. Networks build on networks. Share mutual interests and goals – and be confident. Follow up and avoid defining your relationship with those in your network as one entirely based on commerce. But always understand that the members of your network see you as a valued resource – and you see them in the same light.

Go out and grow that network and you will reap the rewards.