Effective networking for SMEs

It has long been understood that access to a strong network of contacts, providing mutual benefit and support, is a vital tool for professionals and businesses alike. Many jobseekers are finding that in an increasingly competitive jobs market, contacts are the best way to find work. And while the corporate world is far more open and meritocratic than it used to be, influential connections can still be important. 

Small and medium-sized enterprises should view building up a good network as one of their primary goals, especially in their early days. When a big advertising budget is out of the question, opportunities to get your name out there are limited. But with some hard work and the right attitude, you can gain the same level exposure through networking as you can through other more costly means. There are many pitfalls to avoid as you begin to make new contacts and market your business, but below you will find three that have really stuck with me throughout my career and in some cases, prevented me from walking into an awkward situation:

1)    Making it all about you

The author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, Dale Carnegie, wrote: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” In networking, it is easy to get carried away with your enthusiasm for your business, and understandably you want to get your company’s name out there. But as Carnegie writes, you engage with people more effectively when you take an interest in them. Find out what other people need, talk about ways you can offer this to them and the effort will be reciprocated.

2)    Focusing on quantity, not quality

A lot of people writing about networking techniques talk about “working the room” at networking events. This does not mean hurrying around, thrusting business cards into the hands of everyone you can see and rushing away again. The aim is to create a genuine connection with people and the process should accordingly be an organic one. Be friendly and introduce yourself to lots of people, but let your interactions flow naturally.

3)    Trying to give help where it’s not needed

“Don’t inflict help, provide it,” says Ed Batista of Stanford Graduate School of Business.[1] He describes an occasion where he put one of his colleagues in contact with someone he thought could help her, but soon discovered this had angered and alienated her – she felt his actions were unhelpful and had potentially made her situation worse. Make sure that you are sensitive to what people actually need and not what you think they need.

Posted by the Secret Businessman