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Link to online article:  How Important is Networking?



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How important is Networking?

  • February 1st, 2011 3:58 pm PT
  • By Robert Benedict, SF Internet Business Examiner

How important is Networking?

Many business people attend some type of mixer, conference, tradeshow, or some other form of meeting where participants have the opportunity to network with other professionals, as well as spend time with people they already know. Often these meetings are set up for the purpose of building relationships with others in the same industry or from those industries where attendees can become a new source for their goods, services or referrals.

Recently, I was told about a group called Successful Thinkers with an image Einstein in its logo. The name immediately had me believing the meetings would have some interesting people attending. Meaning these attendees would understand that a lot of what makes a business successful is correct thinking, or mind-set, acting on your plans, and communicating clearly. Connecting with people of like minds, either in your industry or another industry has genuine value for the people who want to succeed in their careers. Often these interactions help stimulate and inspire us into thinking about new methods or ideas of how we can become more productive in our own businesses.

Learning about new companies

What stimulates most attendees at Successful Thinkers is the potential of learning about new companies and ample networking opportunities. It also brings value by informing participants of what is going on in the local community as far as events, news and business updates. The first meeting I went to happened to have Jim Bellacera speaking, he is the founder of Successful Thinkers and was talking about the organization and why he started it. The concepts he brought up really rang true for me. Jim said, “After twenty five (25) years of being frustrated with finding the best ways to get leads, I got the idea that would work would be a form of social networking in a professional environment, without requiring an investment of participants.” He had tried cold calling by phone and by stopping at businesses unannounced, advertising in magazines, even buying leads, but none of these methods met his expectations.
The idea got clearer when he was thinking how the Chamber of Commerce has built their organization. The biggest problem was the large expense for members, and even the Chamber is presently losing members in this down economy. Then another idea came to Jim, what about a network group where there are no charges?

How do you do that was the question he kept asking himself, so he searched for the answer. What he learned was that many restaurants were in need of business, too. So if he thought, what if he could combine their need of getting new potential customers while having a venue for Successful Thinkers, then all you need are the members. The restaurant gets new people to come to its establishment who will hopefully buy coffee, breakfast, lunch or dinner. Additionally, the restaurant may get these same customers back with their friends by bringing value to Successful Thinkers and letting the group meet there, as well as being introduced to the establishment that attendees might not have ever dined at before.

Finding members

Next, he had to create a way to invite people to become members. To solve this he looked to the Internet and thought fit a way of finding potential members. Next he needed a reason for them to want to come to the meeting. Virtually every sales person wants to increase his or her prospects and business contacts. Then they need education and valuable guidelines for success, which Jim has worked on for years.

After that first meeting, Jim and I had a ten minute conversation about Successful Thinkers and we decided to get together via phone and discuss in more detail the value of the group as a networking organization. In the discussion that followed, Jim explained what he found that other than industry related networking events, going to networking meetings is usually designed to have one member from each industry so each member has exclusively.

He felt there was a flaw with the concept because we do not always connect with everyone one we meet and we definitely do not want to do business with everyone we meet just because they belong to the same group we do. We do business with the people we trust, like and enjoy when we have the opportunity to find these people in our networking environments.

Feeling comfortable about who you do business with

When you give your business to someone, you are selective and it often starts with getting to know the person and feeling comfortable with him or her. Building a trust in them being able to perform and deliver what and when they say they will. For this reason, a lot of networking groups miss the mark, especially if they have the exclusivity clause. The caveat to this is if you happen to find groups where multiple people from industries you sell your products to, attend.

The most important point Jim made was “If you feel comfortable with someone, it is way more likely that you will want to do business with him.” We then discussed why cold calling via phone or stopping by a company doesn’t work well. It really goes back to the individual you are calling on not knowing you. Now if you were able to speak to the decision maker five to six times you could probably get a decision to meet with the potential customer, if it is a product or service they need.

Then you are back to meeting in person and starting the selling cycle. We probably all have purchased products or services from companies through sales people on-line or via phone. Usually we are the originator of the call or connection on the internet. There are even times when someone calls you on the phone and it happens to be excellent timing on his or her part and you buy what what’s being sold. So cold calling can work although it is not near as productive a method as meeting someone through some form of networking.

There is another part of networking groups that make them valuable to members. Bonds are created by virtue of being in the same organization working together to succeed. There is a comfortable feeling of being a part of something larger than yourself, and having trust in the other attendees.

So what makes Successful Thinkers a good networking idea and place to network? First, most networking groups have a fee based program for membership; this is not the case with Successful Thinkers. Membership is free so it is just a matter of showing up. The attendees that I have met and communicated with, base their involvement on the principals set up by the founder Jim Bellacera. Jim’s intention is to have a group that follows the golden rule of doing to other as you would want them to do onto you. His plan has been to build an organization where attendees can learn the proper way to build businesses through social and face to face networking. It is a time to get to know people you want to know, not just about what products a company has to offer.

In summary, I is an organization where members have the opportunity to learn, meet new like minded people, have fun exploring other industries and ultimately, building their businesses as a result.

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