Networking in the business consulting industry is very crucial but an often overlooked part of many people’s marketing plans. There’s an old saying that goes “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” That saying couldn’t be more true so you need to get out there and start networking and making connections!
Networking is about building relationships, obtaining and giving referrals, and building your reputation, and because of that, the potential impact on your business is directly proportionate to the number of professional network contacts you have.
Consider it from a purely mathematical standpoint. Your professional network consists of ten people. Each of those ten people have ten other contacts of their own. That means you have direct access to ten potential clients, and indirect access to an additional one hundred!
If you are wondering when you should begin networking for the benefit of your new consulting business, the answer is now. Ideally, your network should be in place and growing before you ever open your doors for business. Having advance clients and prospects gives you a much-needed foot in the door when it comes to starting up a consulting business and getting it off the ground.
When it comes to the how of networking, there are almost as many ways to network as there are potential contacts out there! Joining industry bodies and attending functions is one great way to meet other consultants in your larger field, who may not do exactly what you do, and could provide referrals to clients.
Professional networking groups and chambers of commerce are other ways to access networking opportunities, with the benefit of a larger cross-section of members, opening up new possibilities for your client base.
Online networking is gaining in popularity, with dedicated professional networking sites, as well as the traditionally social networking sites like LinkedIn or Facebook offering opportunities to network, grow your business and publicize your company. Or you can start your own network, which provides the benefit of choosing the members yourself, and allows you to choose the venues and frequency.
Conferences and seminars in your field, or the fields you supply services to can be great opportunities to make valuable contacts. Always attend any event with networking potential with an open mind. Try to leave your preconceptions at home, and be open to all possibilities. Just because the person you are talking to does not have use for your services does not mean they do not know someone who does!
Basically, networking opportunities abound, and there will be times when you will meet valuable contacts in the most unpredictable places. The key to successful networking however is to be alert to this sort of opportunity. Always be on the lookout for potential additions to your network.
And networking takes time. You need to set aside time to regularly attend meetings, or else your initial attendance will be for naught. The more you attend your network meetings, the better your relationships with your contacts will be, and the more fruitful your network will become.
Lastly, remember that networking is a two-way street. While you expect your network to provide you with useful information and potential referrals, you must be prepared to do the same. Look after your network, and they will look after you!