The art of networking as a valuable business tool

Monday, April 16, 2012
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Networking may seem like a chore, but those who have used this business building tool say its value can't be matched.

"Sometimes who you know is the most valuable asset you have, especially if you are trying to build a business or a reputation," said Sarah Summers, owner of Magenta Media. "When I first moved to this area a few years ago, networking was key to meeting everyone I'm not friends with and do business with. It is still the foundation of my business as Magenta Media grows beyond Cape Girardeau into other markets." Sumers says people shouldn't give in to the urge to "sell" themselves immediately.

"Networking is about building a relationship, but first it's only about the introduction and listening to the other person's introduction of themselves," Summers said. "If we listen for what we can give, not sell, to that person, we are more likely to make a good impression and they are more likely to think of us when the thing we sell is what they need."

For those who don't have the courage to step out of their comfort zone and make the first move, a necessary step in making a new connection, Summers suggests asking someone you do know for an introduction.

"It's easier for you and it also adds some credibility, provided the person introducing you is respected by the new connection," she said.

Summers helped coordinate two "speed newtorking" events for the Cape Girardeau Chamber Young Professionals. She said these events were inspired by "speed dating," something her group members could identify with.

More than 50 people took part in CYP's March speed networking event, and Summers said she's already heard about how these new connections are paying off.

For those who are serious about building their business through networking, a chapter of Business Networking International recently started in Cape Girardeau.

BNI president Nick Laiben, an agent with Farmers Insurance, was first introduced to the organization while working in St. Louis.

BNI allows only one person per profession to join each chapter and requires members to attend mandatory weekly meetings.

Laiben said the weekly meetings ensure members develop personal relationships and learn more about each other's products and services.

"You get to know people on a professional level pretty quickly. If a customer has a bad experience, I know they'll make it right," he said.

When BNI members meet someone new who could use another member's products or service, they recommend them.

"The best way I've seen to get new business is referrals," Laiben said.

Currently Cape Girardeau's BNI chapter has about 20 members and most chapters average between 40 and 60 members, he said. For more information, all Laiben at 837-1110 or visit www.bnistl.com.

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