Why networking is a vital business tool – and how to do it
Why networking is a vital business tool – and how to do it8th December 2010
Networking: some thrive on it, others struggle, but there’s no doubt that it’s a vital tool for most businesses, helping them grow by strengthening old contacts and developing new ones.
It’s particularly important in the business travel industry, where companies need to maintain good relationships with property providers and clients, as well as remain up to date with the changing requirements of everyone they work with.
At this time of year, Christmas parties and other festive events mean that we see even more of our industry partners than usual, giving us a great opportunity to catch up with all the people we work with on a regular basis. Some of our staff even go round on Christmas ‘drop-ins’, visiting our clients and providers to exchange Christmas greetings and have a quick catch-up.
It is a central tenet of SilverDoor policy that all our staff are knowledgeable about the industry we work in so we can be as helpful to our clients as possible. This means that, while conventional wisdom might dictate that only Sales staff should attend these events, we send staff from all our departments. We feel our Marketing department should always have a thorough knowledge of the properties they write about and promote; it’s also helpful for other departments – from Accounts to Human Resources - to know who they’re speaking to on the phone and for our clients and providers to put a face to a name.
Of course, no matter what their industry, some people find this process more difficult than others. For those who really struggle, here are our tried and tested tips for networking novices:
1. Follow Bridget Jones’s lead: introduce people with an unusual detail about each other. This can be a great ice breaker, although we recommend thinking carefully before revealing your colleague’s predilection for a certain boy band or their behaviour at the office Christmas party.
2. Brush up on current affairs before you go. We all go to networking events to do business, but we also want to get to know the people we speak to on a regular basis so we can work together more smoothly. Don’t be afraid to talk about subjects other than business, although it might be best to stay away from potentially controversial subjects such as politics.
3. Struggling to talk to as many people as you want to? Make a quick exit from a conversation by politely informing them that, alas, while you could stand and talk forever, the boss wants you to circulate as much as possible and you must do as you’re told.
4. Business cards, business cards. There’s nothing worse than finding that, after a great conversation, you have no contact details to hand, and trust us, details scribbled down on a piece of paper or recited verbally are easily lost or forgotten. Business cards are accepted tender at these events for a reason: they’re easy to store, have all the information you need on them and allow for swift and successful networking.
5. Master the art of asking questions gently. Although it’s important to take an interest in the person you’re talking to, bombarding them with questions can make them feel like they’re in the middle of an inquisition rather than a networking event.
When you next see us at a networking event, come and say hi. It’s a great way to ensure that our service remains at as high a standard as possible, meeting the needs of our clients and providers. It also helps us all work together as smoothly as possible.