Networking is a very important element in building a business and should be an integral part of any growth strategy. The benefits of building up a network extend far beyond being an opportunity to prospect for new customers or clients.
Regular contact with your network also allows you to stay abreast of developments in the industry, monitor the activities of your competitors and exchange best practices.
One of the best times for networking is the lunch break. Tempting as it might be to use this time to chat with colleagues, it can often be more productively spent cultivating your network. Here are some tips on successful lunchtime networking:
- Try to schedule at least two 'network lunches' a week
- Use some meetings to develop new relationships and others to cultivate existing ones
- Research your lunch guest beforehand and develop specific objectives for the meeting
- Never arrive empty handed - always take a 'gift' such as a useful contact number, a helpful tip, or an article of interest
- Use the time productively - pass quickly through the small talk and get down to business as soon as courtesy allows
- Don't let the meeting drag on - an hour is usually sufficient for a network lunch
- If you set up the lunch, pick up the tab
- Follow up with a courtesy call and/or a hand-written note