The old adage that “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is as true today as it was when you first entered the workforce or applied for a new position. How much easier it is when you have a contact within a company or organization or someone who can introduce or recommend you to a key decision maker.

Which brings us to one of the best ways to meet new business people: Networking. Simply defined, networking is a means of searching for and finding new customers, suppliers, clients and others who can help you grow your business. It’s also a terrific way to find new service providers you can use. Networking is all about building relationships and trust as well as giving out and receiving referrals. It’s a wonderful vehicle to improve your own business or job prospects and help others as well.

Many such groups meet for an early breakfast, leaving plenty of time to get to your office or make a 9:00 a.m. appointment with a client. If you’re on the shy side, a networking group helps you expand your circle of contacts and move out of your comfort zone. And, it will pay off in new friendships, exposure to service providers and new business contacts that will enrich your life and bless others.

At most networking events, you’ll be required to give a 30 second “commercial” – often called an “elevator speech” – telling others who you are and what you do. Make sure you put some thought into what you want to communicate to other group members and include what services or products you offer them. Keep it short and simple, leaving the audience wanting to learn more about you. The goal is to get them to approach you, ask questions and get your business card.

A networking group is all about building relationships and trust as well as giving out and receiving referrals. It’s a great way to improve your own business or job prospects and help others build their business as well.

Networking is an extremely effective method of building your business if you work at it, and many business people use it as their primary method of advertising. But, like any good marketing program or plan, networking takes time and you shouldn’t expect a lot of business after just one or two visits to a networking group.

It will take some time for others to get to know you, like you and put their trust in you, so keep at it and also work on developing those new relationships outside of the networking meetings. Often meeting one-on-one with someone you’ve just met is an effective way to get to know them and to find out how you can help one another.

Studies have shown that after a couple of months, you’ll start getting business from group members or from them referring you to others they know. By the second and third year, you should be getting more and more business from your new network of friends.

Most people who join a networking group are nervous at first, especially when giving their 30-second commercial, but relax, have fun with it and you’ll make life-long friends and business acquaintances that will lead to more opportunities.
Your networking group can function as a sales force on your behalf without you having to pay salaries and commissions and you’ll greatly benefit from the word-of-mouth advertising that others will give on your behalf.