KZN Business Chambers Council
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Ross Andrew - Business Networking

The Why
Why do we network our businesses? Although most people join a network to generate more sales, this is only one facet of networking and perhaps if this is you, you may well be leaving some money in the room. What about further business opportunities and synergies with other businesses in the room. What about learning more about businesses that may be a competitor at some level, but if you look at them there are usually some services and or products that complement one another, or even if there is a complete overlap, you may service different markets or geographic areas and so you may outsource or subcontract to each other. This idea of coopetition or cooperative competition, really rings true with me and has opened many doors.
The simple experience of going to a network may seem terrifying to some and this helps to grow confidence in speaking not only to individuals but also in groups as you get opportunities to present your business and its products to the room. This can be invaluable to the new business owner just starting out. Further to that as a new business owner you need a plethora of business services to get yourself up and operating and the right network can supply you with most if not all of these services and you can even ask others in the room about their service levels.
What about using the experience in the room to assist you with some business mentoring and problem solving? I have often found that the simple act of asking "how can I help you", and being earnest in actually trying to assist, will really build trust in your fellow business owners and also has the added happiness of knowing that you have helped someone.
The What
Business networking at its most basic, is meeting people, with the goal of creating a connection and selling to them. And whilst this seems too basic and not very sustainable, I still occasionally arrive at networking functions where I get accosted by reps or salespeople. They thrust a card into my hand and proceed to 'vomit' their product catalogue onto me in the vain hope that they will make a sale. After which I watch them proceed to the next 'target' and repeat the process. Often moving around the room in order to 'network' with everyone before their competition gets to them. To me this seems to be an inefficient way to market one's product and is driven by a scarcity mentality.
The How
Over the years, I have found that if one focuses on building relationships with people and truly investing in them, a better longterm result can be achieved. People will listen to people that they like but would rather buy from someone who they Know, Like and Trust, and this takes more time to build but should continue to provide you with a sales pipeline for longer.
Theodore Roosevelt said that nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. With this in mind wouldn't it be better to find out what problems your fellow networkers have and let them buy the solution from you, rather than just selling the most popular, or perhaps the most expensive, product from your catalogue?
The more that we meet and interact with someone the better we will get to know them and if these interactions are positive and mutually beneficial then we will start to build trust. How often are you invited to meet with someone and the first thing that they do is try to sell you something? Think did that make you feel? When we put others first and put the effort into solving their problems then guess who they will want to deal with going forward?
An effective business network embraces this type of networking and is a perfect place to build a great network of referral partners who will assist you in growing your entire business, and not only your bottom line occasionally.
Our vision is to Change the way KZN Does Business and make significant strides in uplifting the economy and tackling unemployment by helping members increase their business through a structured, positive and professional referral marketing programme that enables them to develop long-term, meaningful relationships with quality business professionals. ??
For more information contact: T: +27 83 309 6538 E: W:

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