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It’s not what you know but who you know – networking is a tried and tested method to grow your business but are you making the most of it?

Networking, a form of marketing, is about interacting with like-minded individuals and finding mutually beneficial opportunities. In this article, our small business accountants in London share great networking tips to help you get the most out of it.

Key benefits of networking

It is worth mentioning that networking is not a sales opportunity. At its core, networking is about building long-term relationships with minimal cost to your business. From these meaningful relationships, you and your networking friends benefit one another in the following ways:

  • Shared knowledge – networking allows you to share and learn. Through valuable information comes fresh ideas that can help you in many business areas.
  • Opportunities – the most common result of networking is business opportunities. These can range from getting new partners, customers, suppliers to finding investors.
  • Raised profile – the more you are out there sharing and learning, the more chances you have to build your reputation, which can lead to more business opportunities.
  • Increased confidence – when you push yourself talking to people you don’t know, you are building useful social skills and gaining self-confidence in the process, and these attributes are vital to a small business owner.

Where do you network?

Traditionally, networking has been performed face-to-face at corporate events, social events, or networking events. Even in this digital age, the tradition has endured. Many small business owners we speak to find that face-to-face networking is still essential when it comes to getting to know other like-minded entrepreneurs and fostering relationships with them.

In London, there are thousands of networking events available, most of them target small business owners. They are also demographic-specific or location-specific groups, such as a group dedicated to professional women working in Central London.

With the advances of the internet, you can also network online through popular sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. LinkedIn is particularly useful as you can connect with an individual or join a group that interests you. As it is online, you can now build connections that transcend boundaries.

Top eight networking tips

Before you go to a networking session, it is worth taking a minute to prepare yourself. Here are eight good tips which we have gathered from successful small business owners across London and some of them may be useful to you.

1. Researching the event before you go

Not all networking events are created equal. When you are invited to attend a networking event as a guest, find out more about the event first, like who are the people attending, how long does it take, and what is the format. Check with your host if you will be given time to talk about your business to the whole group.

2. Arriving early

If you are going to a new networking group, arrive early as it gives you time to relax and prepare. Get chatting with a few other early birds is a good way of easing into a larger group as more people turn up.

3. Talking about your business

Have a clear message about what you do and why you are different, and you must deliver it smoothly and confidently. If time permits, you can illustrate the problems your business is helping to solve by telling a story or sharing an experience from your customer.

4. It’s about relationships

Networking is about building relationships, and every relationship takes time to foster and requires a good amount of trust and respect to sustain. Networking is also about giving and taking – so get ready to share what you know or even offer to help without expectation.

5. Finding the ideal partners

When you network, keep a lookout for people who know more than you, as well as people with strong networks. These are the people who can really make a difference in your business when they decide to help (usually after you have gained their trust and respect).

6. Be positive and professional

Remain positive and professional. Listen attentively and treat everyone with respect – you never know how they might help you now or where they might end up in the future.

7. Following up

Once the event is over, follow up by sending an email to the people you have had a discussion with or connecting with them through LinkedIn. You may keep in regular contact but avoid spamming their mailboxes.

8. Knowing what to avoid

Smart small business owners know how to avoid things that put them in a bad light. Things to avoid are:

  • Don’t be an aggressive person doing a hard sell.
  • Avoid political or controversial subjects.
  • Avoid probing for sensitive information.
  • Avoid glancing around the room when someone is talking to you.
  • Don’t drink excessively, if alcohol is available.
  • Make sure that your hands are clean (if you’ve picked up greasy finger food) before shaking someone’s hand.

Useful phrases

If you aren’t a seasoned marketer or sales person, you may find it hard to start a conversation with a stranger whom you have just met. Many of our clients, who are small business owners across London, have shared the fear of walking into a roomful of strangers and finding themselves tongue-tied. Thankfully, networking skills can be learnt and here a few useful phrases to help you breeze through any networking event.

When you break into a group conversation: “May I join you?” or “Do you mind if I join you?”

Good openers: “What kind of business are you in?”, “What brought you here today?” or “This is my first time here, is there something I shouldn’t miss?”

If the person has mentioned what they do: “What goals do you have for your business?” or “What does the future hold for your industry?”

If you want to exit the group: “Excuse me, my mouth is dry so I’m going to go to the bar and get a drink,” or “Excuse me, do you know if someone here who is in (industry)?”

The key, according to experts, is to show interest in the person you are talking to. Also, don’t forget to smile.

Business growth advice from TaxAgility

Almost all articles about business growth on the internet mention how networking can help a business expand and grow. While it is true that networking helps, it isn’t a silver bullet and there are other factors at play here. For instance, business growth also relies on strong finances and cash flow, having a reliable supply chain, knowing how to manage business relationships, hiring the right type of employees, providing outstanding customer service, becoming tax-efficient, to name but a few.

At TaxAgility, we are small business accountants dedicated to helping entrepreneurs in London, Putney and Richmond-upon-Thames. Specially, we thrive at analysing financial information and using financial data to identify opportunities for our clients. We have helped many of our clients grow from one idea into the companies they are today. If this is what you are after, give our ICAEW Accountants a call on 020 8108 0090.

Accounting and tax services from TaxAgility

The main services we provide to small businesses include:

Management consultancy from our Accountants is essential if you have an eye on business growth. Management consultancy is about using financial data, accurate budget, as well as forecasts, to unlock business potential. We strongly believe that once you start to use data-led information to make a series of good business decisions, you will soon discover that the good decisions feed a positive cycle that will yield more favourable results, including increased profits and business growth.

At TaxAgility, our small business accountants are also experienced management consultants. We look to build long-term relationships with you because we believe in growing together – if you grow, we grow too.

For honest, expert advice on how strong finances and cash flow can help your business better and more profitable, give us a call on
020 8108 0090.

Alternatively, you can use the contact us form to get in touch.

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This blog is a general summary. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstance.