“The first step in the process of breaking through the barriers that limit your business is to realize that business success will not just happen."
Greg Roworth – CEO, Business Success Systems
Thinking back to 2001 when I started clinical practice as a professional reflexologist in southern Sydney, it was clear that engaging with other professions in the local community made good business sense. However, being a natural advocate for your own business doesn’t necessarily come easy to everyone. Personal confidence develops over time, through actively approaching peer therapists and other professionals. The article title, “working on your business - effective networking” attempts to guide you in stepping outside the clinic with practical awareness.
Networking and relationship building are important tools you can use to grow your business. Effectively networking will allow you to not only increase your income, but to also increase your professional profile and highlight your expertise or special interest therapy services.
What is Effective Networking?
It goes far beyond just meeting people – that’s the easy part! It involves developing connections from which you can build relationships with people you genuinely like, and with whom you can provide mutual benefits.
Some important points to consider:
Focus on giving vs getting – how can you help them?
Be present to the person you’re engaging with – listen more to them, rather than talking about you. What are their needs?
Meetings are opportunities to build trust and genuine interest through honesty.
Always carry plenty of business cards – you never know when you’ll need them.
Make contact – book a meeting and follow up afterwards with an email or text (within a few days, not weeks). Keep in contact regularly, make a point of it
Why should I spend time networking?
You get known by those who count (peers and other professionals)
You make more contacts (expanding your reach)
You build relationships
You build your reputation (and respect as a professional)
What kinds of relationships should I be building?
Peer to Peer – These could reflect your therapy interests, aligned therapies or more commonly, same therapy professionals.
Alliance Professionals – These represent other industries or professions you have direct or in-direct contact with, either as therapists or at business level.
Where should I start?
The easiest way to begin networking is to ensure that whenever someone contacts you, you ask where they found your information. If they were referred by someone else, take down these details. You now have two contacts that you can follow-up – the referrer and also the new contact. Ensure you follow-up the contact within a week or two (unless discussed otherwise) and remind them of when they called you and who referred them to help spark their memory. It’s also useful to follow-up the referrer and thank them for their referral. This shows them that you appreciate the relationship with them and gives you a genuine reason for getting touch – you never know where it may lead!
How do I make the most of each conversation?
Presentation – ensure you are neatly dressed and groomed.
Smile – this invites people to engage with you.
Eye contact – to connect with each person you’re talking to.
Firm handshake – your handshake is a sign of respect, confidence and interest.
Body language – sit or stand up tall and lean slightly forward. Try to avoid crossing your arms or legs as this conveys disinterest.
Being attentive – asking open ended questions improves the quality of the conversation and makes it more memorable to them and you.
How do I support my new relationships?
Be prepared to nurture a relationship once established, by keeping in contact regularly. One of the easiest and most effective ways of supporting the ongoing relationship is to offer a gift voucher or (as I have done) Pamper Sessions. Your specialty service may be why they wish to network with you. This contact builds trust, mutual understanding and respect and provides an opportunity for them to experience your services.
Be an active referrer of your network contacts, even if it’s only talking them up in conversations.
Employing these principles has resulted in lasting professional relationships for me, including midwives, childbirth educators, massage therapists, other reflexologists, pharmacists and happy clients. I have continued to develop new alliances across a variety of businesses and individual professionals by utilising these established and your own innovative methods that suit the circumstance.