What makes networking good for your business?

We all know that quality leads from networking contacts are a great way to get business, but what do we need to do to get the most out of networking? Today members were asked to break into subgroups and discuss these questions:

What Characteristics make a good Business Networking Group?

We felt that a good group needed to include a diverse range of members so that we could make the most of any referral opportunities we came across. Members need to be reputable businesses with high standards so that we can refer to them with confidence. The format of the meetings should encourage strengthening relationships between members so that we can promote fellow members in the right way.

The meetings should be well structured so that the emphasis is on referrals, but also welcoming and with a fun atmosphere. There should be a good Chairman who can maintain the right feel to the meeting, and a strong emphasis on quality referrals. There should be systems in place so that the Chairman can focus on chairing not administering the meeting.

We felt that there should be a number of different formats for meetings so that we were not always following the same formula, with mini 1-to-1s being highlighted as something we ought to do more of.

What is the best business referral you have ever had, and why?

Terry highlighted one of his current prospective leads, with the potential of reviewing pensions for around a hundred employees. Liz cited the case of a chip shop owner who made a massive saving on his energy bills, and told all the other chip shops in the area who then wanted the same deal!

How do you proactively seek referrals?

Obtaining referrals was seen to be down to listening actively for opportunities to refer. Rather than actually directly promoting other members in a cold selling process, it was seen as spotting when the time was right to make reference to the services of a fellow group member. It was also seen as important to recognise how hard you should push the referral – should you just leave a member’s business card, or should you take the details and say ‘I’ll get X to call you’?

It is important that we get to know how each fellow member’s business runs and what their specific interests are, so that we can get them the best matched referrals. There was also some discussion of the ‘focus member’ format where we would concentrate on a particular member’s business for one meeting.

How do you vet your potential customers?

One member reported that all his potential customers were credit checked by Sarah Lowe, who has also taken on recovery of debt from a number of previous customers and is now setting credit limits for new customers. Denzil stated that in his industry it was an FSA requirement that payment must be provided before any insurance cover was provided. Rob said that for most new customers he asked for a deposit of about 25%, not just as security but as much to secure customer commitment to providing website content. Several members commented that referrals often tended to be proven good customers of the referrer.