By David Adams, Business and Leadership Coach and Mentor, and author of 'Well-Versed'

Networking is often considered the lifeblood for small businesses, but many shy away from potential leads and new business because they hate to network. Here, I will reveal how networking and having a good relationship can lead to business success.

Don’t speak to Strangers

Much has been written about networking; some good and interesting, some pretty poor. My take is that sometimes it can work and be hugely valuable, but on other occasions it can be a complete waste of time. I was brought up, like many children, not to speak to strangers and yet when I eventually grew up I had to realise that speaking to strangers is often the most valuable way to start building the necessary relationships vital for a growing and thriving business.

We’ve all met people at so-called networking events, whose prime motivation is to hand out as many business cards as they can carry, not even worrying to whom they’re given, or whether they receive one in return. If they’re like me they empty out their pockets when getting back to the office next day, wondering who on earth gave them the card with a name and number which means absolutely nothing. What do we do? Do we contact them and say, “I met you last evening and got your card but who are you and what do you do?” Even if you take the trouble to go on the website following the URL printed on the card, we’re often none the wiser.

I don’t believe there’s a right way and wrong way when it comes to networking; there’s no magic bullet. Everyone’s different. What I do feel is that we should all understand why we’re there. We should have done some homework with the organiser to find out if there’s anyone on the guest list with whom we would like to do business. It’s often fatal just to turn up on the off chance. Much better to be able tap someone on the shoulder, even if they’re deep in conversation, saying, “sorry to interrupt but can we have a word later/tomorrow?”

By doing that we have an opportunity to start building the relationship we need with the right people with whom to do business. So, it’s not the first sighting, the first word, that counts, it’s the follow up, and the follow up with the right people with whom we need to do business not just want to do business.

We often talk about needs and wants. I’ll get home after a hard day and think I “need a drink.” No, I don’t but I certainly want one. We go to buy a drill not because we want a drill but because we need a hole in the wall. So it is in business, we need relationships to help us do business, to help us motivate staff, to help us sell to the right people. We start to build relationships by selecting carefully those with whom we want to do business. Choose your customers carefully and your business will grow exponentially.