How do you build your business network? For some, expanding their network appears easy yet many struggle to turn a brief encounter into a business relationship. Attending business networking events can appear daunting. Find a strategy that works for you to build trust, become more visible, and increase your credibility. Intentionally sharing your message at networking events can contribute to your success.
Hear from consulting psychologist Barbara Bengtson who sets out the principles of networking and building credible relationships. She shares her story and experience of building her network.
Effective Networks: Powerful Strategies for Your Coaching Practice
In 2016 I moved back to my hometown, leaving my position as an internal coach to start a business in a place I had not lived for decades. The professional communities and connections that naturally developed over my 20-year career were no longer accessible. I therefore thought, ‘How can I authentically and effectively meet people, and build my coaching business?‘
Through self-discovery, my ‘thing-centered intelligence’ is much stronger than my ‘people-centered intelligence’. As I no longer have an organization supporting my work, how can I sell myself as a coach?
Whether you are established or just starting out, bring your authentic self and commit to the process. Focus on three core aspects to engage with other and build your business network.
At the core of any relationship is Trust. Trust is built over time with consistent engagement. Weekly or monthly meetings provide effective means to demonstrate your ability to show up consistently and meet expectations. Increasing the frequency has the potential to build trust quickly.
Another factor to consider is your intention. When you meet others, find ways to show you are not only present to build your coaching business but to support them in any way you can. It is a two-way relationship that starts with an authentic intention.
Different types of businesses required different levels of trust. Not much trust is needed to make a purchase in a coffee shop. Coaching is a profession which requires a high level of trust; it often takes months or years for your message to be trusted by those who need you. We talk to many individuals who immediately say, “I know someone who could really use coaching.” The number who immediately schedule a session is a small fraction. Being reliable is a powerful trust builder, and frequent visits increase the likelihood that you will be front-of-mind when you are needed.
Increasing your Visibility
Building your network in a large office, increases the number of people that recognize you as a coach. Attending networking events gives you the power to be seen by and connect with many people. This is not a one-and-done proposition; plan to attend these events strategically to establish your presence in the community. If offered weekly or monthly, make it a point to attend regularly to meet new people, touch base with people you have already met, and be seen as a professional in the community.
How might networking look?
After attending several different events, I found that open networking opportunities made me uncomfortable. The weekly meetings and agendas of BNI® (Business Network International, www.bni.com) provided me with predictability and support; there I was able to gain skills in the areas of messaging, speaking, and interacting with other professionals. Meeting the same people every week, I got to know them and their businesses. Being a member of a networking group provides visibility through dedicated time to talk about your business.
Another visibility outlet is your Area Chamber of Commerce. Thanks to my BNI® experience, I can advocate for my business and support the people and businesses I visit as a chamber member, even in open networking events.
Joining the local chapter of ATD (Association for Talent Development, www.td.org), the monthly luncheons have interesting speakers. I learn alongside an engaged group of human resource professionals whose organizations may benefit from my expertise. Becoming a member of the Board increases my visibility as well as credibility.
Also, consider attending the Gallup at Work Summit in person. A chance to meet the coaching community and forge strong connections.
Build credibility by authentically participating and demonstrating expertise in a variety of settings. The professional associations to which I belong provide development which I share to build credibility. I volunteer to speak at ATD, local wellness events, and our local Chamber. These opportunities have increased my visibility as well as professional credibility; my work is valued by these entities.
Networking creates credibility and mutually beneficial relationships between professionals. The benefit I found in BNI® included the weekly opportunity to see and be seen by the same people. I was able to develop my ‘elevator speech’ while developing relationships and growing my business. When fellow members encounter someone who wants to get more joy out of their work, my name comes up because they hear the many ways I support clients when we visit every week.
Each of these brings visibility and provides opportunities for meaningful interactions relevant to my credibility as a coach. As a member of the APA (American Psychological Association, www.apa.org) in the divisions of consulting psychology and educational psychology, I continue professional development and garner credibility. Similarly, I am a Gallup® Certified Strengths Coach and attend their annual Summit and Learning Week. For access to continuous development, I create opportunities and interactions with the Gallup® social media outlets.
As the board chair for our local trail running group (nmtc.run) I actively demonstrate my passion for well-being and nature. Credibility is developed holistically; it is always a joy in networking events when someone mentions our trail events and we connect in a new way.
Through the process of joining different professional, networking, and even social groups, these key strategies guide my interactions.
Start with intention; networking efforts are especially effective when you participate fully in events and meetings. Belong to organizations you value. Your consistent presence and engagement effectively build visibility, credibility, and trust with those you meet. Through these interactions, you will discover leadership and speaking opportunities.
Networking has the potential to increase visibility, provide opportunities to demonstrate capabilities, and build trust. Be highly engaged learning from others and sharing your message to get a great return on your networking investment. With the engagement in these various groups, I have re-connected to my hometown community and am building my coaching business; I hope you find similar success.