The telephone is nearly obsolete for making an initial contact with a potential customer, as is postal mail. Cold calling? Forget it. Unsolicited e-mail? Today, successful business development is contingent upon building trusted relationships and leveraging those relationships to meet new prospects. These relationships form the backbone of your business network. It is vital that you continuously grow and nurture these relationships, as a large percentage of your business growth will come from your business network.
Always Seek Referrals Your customers almost certainly know colleagues like themselves who need your product or service. It is perfectly acceptable to ask them for a referral and request permission to use their name for an introduction. With a referred contact in hand and a trusted customer as back up, you can then make your telephone call or send an email to gain an introduction. Once your prospect hears or sees the name of his or her colleague, you will have a much greater chance of success in your introductory contact.
Use Testimonials Your customers are your most important advocates.
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Ask them if they would be willing to provide a testimonial about your product or service. They most likely will agree because they want you and your business to succeed, particularly because it reinforces their decision to use your product or service. The testimonial may be a simple quote or a longer case study that demonstrates how your product or service solved their problem. It should be posted on your website. You should also search and identify publications or sites that would be interested in publishing the case study.
Participate in Industry Meetings Believe it or not, face-to-face meetings are not dead. Participating in industry meetings, conferences, and tradeshowsis a greatway to nurture relationships with colleagues, network, and meet new people. What you have read up to now and hopefully will continue to read is relevant and applicable in many instances. There are valid arguments and opinions from either side. Is the internet a positive or negative influence? What should or should not be done about it? It has given rise to some corrupt practices, which is regrettable. On the other hand it provides overwhelming benefits to millions: constantly accessible knowledge and easy communication with the entire world.
The role of the internet in networking The internet is like alcohol in some sense. It accentuates what you would do anyway. If you want to be a loner, you can be more alone. If you want to connect, it makes it easier to connect. Esther Dyson interview in Time magazine, October It would be easy enough at this stage to lose focus and become completely distracted. This chapter is specifically about the role of the internet with respect to networking; how it works, what you can do and whether or not it is safe. This is what will be discussed here. For reference and to put things in context, the internet is a network of interconnected computers whose origins date back to the s in the US military.
The commercialization of the internet did not take place until the s. Its development has been so rapid that, at the time of writing, approximately one quarter of the planet now has access to it. The percentage that has access to sanitized drinking water, for example, is roughly the same. In contrast, just think how long ago irrigation methods were invented and how slow the progress in this area has been.
It could be argued that the concept of physical networking is exactly the same. In this case, the internet is nothing more than a huge virtual reality that can be harnessed by the willing individual for the sole objective of networking. Being the cunning beast that it is, the internet has now evolved to such an extent that it has many different ways of allowing the avid networker to network. Peter Steiner cartoon in New Yorker magazine, 5 July The development of the internet has allowed a host of different networking media to develop. Outlined below are the main types that you are likely to encounter.
Depending on how you want to network in the virtual world, or what you want to network about, this would drive your decision on which method to use. Each has different pros and cons. As a general rule, the greater the variety of methods you use, the more successful your networking will be.
You can use as many of them as you want — or all of them.
E-mail In its crudest form, networking via the internet was made possible by the establishment of electronic mail e-mail as it is known now in tandem with the method of exchanging digital messages. This means that interpersonal humanto-human contact is feasible via the internet.
The first e-mail message was allegedly sent early in the s.
However, it was not until the internet boom that its use became so widespread. The benefits of e-mail are obvious: it is quick, free and easy provided you know how to work a computer. Key point E-mail offers huge benefits for both businesses and individuals. It has become the most widely used method of distributing important information, from single person-to-person exchanges to widespread distribution lists consisting of tens of thousands of e-mail addresses.
For example, at the press of a button, in seconds a multinational corporation can inform its entire global workforce that there has been a change of chairman. You cannot guarantee that people will actually read the e-mail even if it arrives safely in their inbox. With some applications the sender can request but it is not a requirement that the recipient sends an automatic message when the e-mail arrives, to confirm delivery.
Getting an e-mail address is the first step into the world of virtual networking. This can state your job title, contact details, company name and strap line, logo etc. In effect this can act as your virtual business card. See Chapter 5 for more information on business cards and their use. This requires the person you wish to communicate with to be signed up to the same messaging service, which makes it slightly different to e-mail. Key point The instantaneousness of instant messaging and its negligible cost — you could be talking to a relative on the other side of the world — make far more economic sense than a phone call.
Google Mail, for example, has an application within it that allows you to chat with any other Google Mail contacts you have, rather than e-mail them. This is a quick and useful way of contacting people instantly — you can see if they are online and available. If they are, you can chat to them right away. The idea behind this is to drive efficiency and improve communication on an inter-departmental basis. It certainly makes internal networking easier, should you be thinking of doing this.
Chat rooms These are a variant on the instant messenger theme. The best description possibly is that they are effectively an online conference facility. The chat room is affiliated to a certain subject — take for example, the popular TV show Lost.
Its chat room provides individuals who are interested in the programme the opportunity to discuss theories, critique episodes and generally debate the show with other interested parties. Obviously the scope of what different chat rooms do varies; they are not all deeply rooted in pop culture. For instance, software developers might join a chat room to discuss the benefits and issues of a beta version of a new Windows programme just being released by Microsoft for trial. Chat rooms generally have rules of behaviour to ensure that no one misbehaves.
Depending on the degree of strictness of the moderator, participants of a chat room might be banned from further activity if, due to a difference of opinion, they insult other members. In addition, the chat room provides an online area where like-minded individuals can congregate and discuss common interests. If you are checking the similarities with physical networking, this is how to make new contacts and establish mutual interests.
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This is how many successful friendships are formed. It is normally attached to the internet site of a particular subject. For instance, most pop bands have a forum on their website. This is where fans can discuss songs, upcoming tours and forthcoming albums. They could even debate which member of the band was most likely to have voted UKIP in the European elections. Again, it does not have to be associated with pop culture. Internet sites on all subjects can have forums.
Key point The distinction between a forum and a chat room is that forums are generally more organized and have specific topic threads.
3 types of networks you need to succeed in your career - The Business Journals
The chat room is much more as it sounds, informal with lots of random chatter on many topics. Annoyingly for those of an impatient disposition, forums do not function in real time. You post a reply and it may be minutes, hours or days before it is responded to; sometimes it never is. There is also the facility to PM private message other forum members should you wish to do so. In simple terms, this means the ability to respond personally to another member of the forum without it being visible to the rest of the members or the browsing public.
Browsing forums and topic threads as a guest is possible.