Simple conversation is a powerful tool in the business world. It can build bridges, establish powerful relationships, and create opportunities where none previously existed. Most business owners know this and are proficient with conversing and networking—but successful B2B business owners are often the best.
A B2B business operates differently than a B2C business. Because B2B clients depend on the relationship for their own livelihood, the level of trust between a B2B business and its clientele is crucial. Often, larger dollar amounts are involved as well, and long-term relationships are common. For these reasons, B2B business owners and top execs must be skilled at networking and maintaining strong relationships in order to ensure clients are happy and the business grows.
The Benefits of Effective Networking
Referrals. Word-of-mouth references are always the most effective. Referrals can come from friendly business associates, satisfied clients, and other individuals who have benefitted from the services your business offers. They are more likely to result in a sale and/or new client relationship than a general inquiry from someone unfamiliar with your business’s reputation and quality.
Collaborative opportunities. An entrepreneurial mind is always on the lookout for new opportunities. By networking and building strong, long-term relationships with other businesses and B2B companies, you can keep your options open for collaborative or growth opportunities in the future.
Skill building. Networking isn’t exactly like sales, but it’s not entirely different either. Newer B2B business owners can view networking events as practice for the harder sales situations. The tone is a bit different, lighter and friendlier, and the opportunities are a bit more broad, which is prefect for owners and execs who want to hone their skills in relationship building and entrepreneurship.
Targeted growth. A key aspect of effective networking is focusing on the kinds of relationships you want to build. Select events that cater to the clientele your business needs, or cultivate opportunities to meet specific business owners or industry leaders. To grow in this way, you need clear goals for your business’s future. If those are set, then targeted networking can help you move swiftly in the right direction.
Long-term connections. Good business relationships are not always useful in the moment, but the business world is constantly evolving, those relationships could evolve along with it. In B2B business, in particular, there is a lot of room for growth and development. Keeping relationships strong over time may result in opportunities you hadn’t anticipated or strong praise at just the right time. Positive long-term connections have a way of giving back over time and are worth the effort of maintaining, even if they’re not immediately beneficial to your business’s goal.
Tips for Improving Your Networking Skills
- Always be genuine – This is not a sales pitch and should never feel like one.
- Set clear goals for your business’s future growth – You can’t build the right relationships if you have no clear direction in mind.
- Be patient and friendly – While you have a goal in mind, good working relationships aren’t formed overnight.
- Ask open-ended questions – And don’t make the questions all about work. If you like the same sports teams, for instance, you’re guaranteed a friendly partnership.
- Develop a clear, concise way to explain your business – Prepare series of phrases or short explanations for what you will say to the easy, predictable questions.
- Focus on mutually beneficial relationships – Networking can be stressful, but the real idea behind it is that your products/services could benefit these individuals, much like their product/services could benefit you. Both sides win.
- Follow up – Get contact numbers, emails, etc. and reach out to those associates, business owners, and other execs who have similar goals or outlooks. Even if it’s just a thanks for the conversation and a vague request to do lunch sometime, the potential for a long-term business connection starts with the gesture.
Networking is a different experience for every business owner, and comfort in the skill takes time to develop. B2B business owners who are looking to expand their market potential and explore new opportunities might want to start by looking to their current networking strategies for inspiration. The potential is there, and sometimes a few conversations with the right individuals is all it takes to change everything.