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How to really improve your business networking skills

14 March 2021|Business Growth, Latest Posts, Marketing, PR, Promotion

How to really improve your business networking skills
How to really improve your business networking skills

By Lauran Bush, Associate Director at EP Innovates .   For entrepreneurs, building introductions and fostering strong personal relationships is essential and instrumental to business success. However, accessing the right opportunities regularly is not without challenge. Networking in general is a crowded space, every day businesses are bombarded by hundreds of entrepreneurs looking to make connections and showcase their innovations. But often the challenge stems from the approach taken to building those relationships. Forming new relationships should be personal not transactional, yet so many entrepreneurs make the mistake of focusing too heavily on their product or service and less so on developing the human relationship itself.

Entrepreneurs rely on good networking opportunities and businesses want to access innovation but there is a process to get to this point and strong personal relationships are at the core. Rather than networking in a more transactional way, we should be focused first and foremost on building meaningful friendships with people. Life as an entrepreneur can be lonely, but making and nurturing friendships from the outset can support business relationships in the longer term too, because they will have a greater depth and sincerity to them. 

Don’t work the room

Years ago, people would revel in the idea that you need to ‘work the room’ when attending a networking event. Yet in truth, nobody likes to feel like they’re being ‘worked’ in a room, as part of a tick box process to create as many business leads as possible. It’s cold, transactional and doesn’t provide a solid basis for a strong future relationship. It is far better to approach networking in a more human way, as merely a platform for making new friendships. In the long run, this will bring business opportunities but it is about thinking smarter when it comes to meeting new people.

There are often so many events to choose from too, so entrepreneurs have to be clever about selecting the best opportunities. Networking has also changed today and continues to evolve so it’s becoming more important to be brave and bold, to be different and to think about more interesting ways to get in front of people. Showcasing your own character and personality through networking will help you to form stronger bonds with others. It helps to build conversation and that personal link. In a way, it’s about going back to the old school of thought, before the world became so digitally-led and bottom line focused.

Step outside of your usual circles

But it’s not just how you network, it’s also who you network with. When it comes to selecting events and opportunities, we tend to stick within our own comfort zones or at least within our own industries and circles and that can be a barrier. Networking outside of your industry broadens your mental agility and can be hugely beneficial for entrepreneurs looking to take inspiration from others or foster new relationships. For example, it shouldn’t matter if you are a plumber, doctor, lawyer or a primary school teacher; knowledge is transferrable and there is a shared value to be had. 

By opening up new channels of communication and supporting knowledge share across different industries, sharing knowledge with people from any industry sector can be extremely powerful in business because everyone brings with them a different thought process and approach that others can learn from. It’s all about broadening your mind set, taking a step outside of your usual circles and realising that you can take inspiration from any market and apply it to your own situation.

This all comes back to making networking more intelligent and never just ‘for the sake of it’. As entrepreneurs we have to continually develop our networking skills, it takes practice to get it right but building relationships has to be built into the core of everything you do. Developing conversations with people outside of the ‘hard sell’ environment will also avoid the air of desperation and give you a more specific reason to broaden the relationship.

Think tribal

It can also benefit your networking experience if you spend time thinking about the bigger picture too and creating a greater presence for yourself. Writing intelligent and relevant content online which reinforces your character and personality or positioning yourself as an expert or commentator in your field, can really boost the whole building relationships experience, because it gives you a talking point around what you do and positions you in a thought leading way.

When it comes to building relationships today, people tend to excel when they feel valued or part of something bigger, we are inherently tribal as human beings and the desire to network and build meaningful and personal relationships in business is a huge part of our culture. If entrepreneurs can promote the spirit of forming relationships across any sector and move away from product and service and more towards friendship, we stand to create a more positive experience for networking now and into the future.

About the Author:

Lauren Bush is Associate Director of EPinnovates

A shop window for entrepreneurial innovation, EPinnovates has been created to showcase exciting innovations, new products, services, concepts and businesses for larger companies to discover and explore.  Designed to recognise and support the innovation that entrepreneurs and smaller businesses bring to the future economy, EPinnovates tells stories about entrepreneurs; each has a different tale, adventure and overcomes diverse obstacles, but all are looking to improve business and create value.  Accessing these ideas and innovations can be difficult for businesses to truly discover so EPinnovates acts to bridge that gap and help to engineer the future for the better by introducing larger companies to entrepreneurs through the principles of trust, community and relationships.