July 2014 Article
Networking: you got to be in it to win it
In a wide range of business sectors, many otherwise technically impeccable professionals have poor social skills. When it comes to building relationship or closing business deals some of them are simply terrified of approaching people. On the other hand, we also know there are salespeople whose strong skills to sell is innate – they could sell sand in the desert.
Maybe the success of business lies on these fundamentals: a specific group being in charge of operations, the other one focusing on sales, while the administrators run the company. Ultimately, assigning roles for the team members according to their personal skills.
Selling accounting services in Brazil has always been a challenge, and I believe such reality has not changed so far. Accountants keep being vastly undervalued, and oftentimes referred to as “bookkeepers” in a literal sense, i.e., many times, getting no consideration or respect. At this point, I have to admit: we are the tax calculators.
Moreover, many companies collect taxes while making no profit due to lack of accounting records. Our fault, isn’t it? Let us get back to networking! While social clubs do not approve of people who approach with a much more commercial property, for they are not intended to such a purpose, numerous other associations are designed for commercial social networking.
Depending on the professional profile and target clients, there are Chambers of Commerce in almost every country, business development agencies, professional associations, etc. These groups or councils play a key role in building relationships between local business leaders and valuable connections in big businesses.
It is important to record that networking activity requires much time and effort. There is no use in joining five Chambers of Commerce, for example, and not attending them due to a tight schedule. Especially because we are not talking about a low investment.
Networking requires good planning, and the choice of the right person with a matching profile - someone who feel comfortable on the front line. Currently, in our company, at the beginning of the month, we review the events calendar, setting dates, defining what type of event best suit our needs, and discussing who should attend it. I will never forget a famous happy hour, sponsored by two chambers of Commerce, which I decided to attend after a tiring and long day at work. At the entrance, I almost freaked out when I saw over 200 participants in there and, I swear, my body started aching. I have to confess that I gave up and headed home: I was simply unable to shaking hands or being nice at that stage of the game. However, things are changing. Currently there are clubs of individuals whose primary purpose is doing business. You can sell your product without any shame.
Commercial networking clubs are closed. They allow only one member per type of business to avoid any kind of competition within the group. The main goal is helping one another making connections: each group meets weekly, usually early in the morning, breakfast style, starting on time, and ending on time. There are goals established by the group, with a minimum number of visits to be carried out, policies to regulate attendance, visits, and referrals requirements, all to ensure synergy and business growth.
Lastly, I must also comment on a fact that I have noticed. It is essential to pass the mantle, sharing our knowledge and our contacts with our successors. Every time I have a business lunch, I am introduced to a younger professional who is expected to take a position, even if it is not in the near future. There is an evident concern about succession.In short: networking is not that easy – to get results from it you need to set aside a great deal of time, and effort into investing resources, energy, and skills - but it is crucial for our business.