How to use business networking for more than just sales leads

Business networking, through events like breakfast clubs, can bring new sales leads for your business. It’s true that people buy from people, and being able to meet with other business people who are most likely local to you, and are in need of products and services themselves, is a good way of promoting yourself and your business. But business networking is good for more than just your sales figures and should be looked at as a holistic business experience.

Carol Hanson from Want Her Dress is a big advocate of business networking events. Carol has used networking events to improve her bottom line, not necessarily only by an increase in sales, but in applying increased business knowledge, and finding local cost-effective suppliers. Carol says “I love business networking! I found a great web developer at a breakfast club I attend, and I picked up some great marketing tips from a lady at one of the monthly socials. It’s a fun way of expanding your network and you never know when you might need the person who just walked in the room for their first meet-up.”

Carol may be on to something. While the promise of new sales leads is a big draw of business networking, for every person who gains a sales lead through such events, there’s someone there who has found a new supplier, and when improving profit figures is as much about lowering costs as it is about increasing sales, networking your way to find a newer, better, cheaper supplier can be just as productive.

There are also lessons to be learnt and applied from networking clubs. Many business network organisations offer formal talks for their members. Guest speakers attending events talking to you about the latest social media platform, or helping you through the tax minefield can be a great source of knowledge that you can apply in your business without the expense of having to pay someone for a one-to-one consultation. But even if your networking group doesn’t offer formal sessions, simply chatting to someone informally over coffee and croissants can be an eye-opener. If you’re in the restaurant trade, networking with a tool manufacturer might not open up avenues for sales or supply, but may well introduce you to new ways of advertising that you didn’t know about, or find you a recommendation for a good accountant, or a cleaning company. Despite the internet age, word of mouth recommendations are still gold, especially when you’re looking for someone local.

A huge advantage to being in a business networking group is insider knowledge. Through networking you may find out that a potential competitor is starting up on your patch, or find ways of working with other local businesses on joint projects, or find out the expansion plans of that supermarket that is already too big for your liking. For local businesses especially, strength is found in numbers and personal relationships that can be used when times get tough or there is a battle to be fought can prove invaluable.

Business networking is more than just increased sales leads. In fact, selling to others should be a small part of networking activity. With better, stronger working relationships comes business improvement, and sales will follow as part of that. Why not give business networking a try?