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Utilising one's personal networks in one's business seems obvious to most business people. However, we do not always realise the scope of our networks.

This article aims to make us aware of this once more.

Points of contact for personal networks:

Employees – This is probably the one point of access to new clients/contacts that is underutilised and underestimated by most business owners. Ensure that your employees understand the profile of the person(s) you need, or with whom you would like to do business. Remember that our employees have a vested and very personal interest in the success of our businesses. They could do qualified references for us.

Clients – It sounds quite simple, but do we consciously ask our clients for references? Do you do this?

Suppliers – Just like our employees, our suppliers also have an interest in the success of our business. If you are prepared to provide them with references from your personal network, it creates the platform for reciprocal references.

Investors – Quite a number of businesses have investors, and these investors usually have good personal networks and they also have an interest in our success. Make it a point to ask for their aid in this regard.

Prospects – It often happens that someone does not become one of our clients. This does not mean that they had a negative experience with our business. Ask them for references as well and offer an incentive for references that lead to business. One example could be to offer a discount on their next transaction above a certain amount.

Competition – There could be opportunities for a mutual agreement for reciprocal client references with our competitors in areas where we are not in direct competition, or where we lack expertise, or when a product is not in stock, or is something that we do not normally stock.

The press and the media – Make it a point to establish good relationships with the press and the media. They are always looking for new stories and news. Positioning yourself as an expert on a specific subject could indirectly have value for your business, because you will most probably be allowed to mention the name or website of your business when you are quoted.

Industry experts – In every industry there are people whose opinions and influence are widely respected. By knowing who they are and getting to know them, you will be able to use their aid in negotiating qualified references that could lead to new client acquisitions.

Associations – This may be a stereotyped consideration. However, there are local chambers of commerce and associations (for example, a buyers' group to negotiate an economy of scale discounts) that could provide you with access to new clients. It will, however, demand time and effort to build and maintain the newly-established relationships.

Is it possible that you have not yet considered some of these network options, which could have value for your business?

In conclusion we could once again take notice of the benefits an active personal network holds for our businesses:

  • The first level of trust is already there – the reference has already been evaluated and is known to you or the person who gave you the reference
  • A qualified reference gives you access to new business opportunities and expertise
  • It expedites interaction that could lead to faster contracting and output (e.g. a sales transaction)
  • It provides you with an ‘ear to the ground' to have timeous knowledge of opportunities you may capitalise on

Lewis Howes (American author, entrepreneur and former professional Arena League football player) shared the following two quotes:

"Effective networking isn't a result of luck – it requires hard work and persistence."
and
"One of the most powerful networking practices is to provide immediate value to a new connection. This means the moment you identify a way to help someone, take action."

To support business owners with the important task of business planning, Sanlam gives you free access to the book Your Annual Business Game Plan for Success, which provides an easy and straight forward framework needed to draft a well-crafted game plan that will create the positive change and growth necessary for business success.

Go to www.sanlamgameplan.co.za to download your free copy.

Article written by Jannie Rossouw, Head: Sanlam Business Market

 

 

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