• Monday, June 17, 2024
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BusinessDay

Networking as a necessary tool for business growth

How to overcome networking anxiety

“Na wa for you oh, how did you manage to know all these people? See how people are hustling to get close to the guest of honour and they just gave you VIP access and you’re hugging the big people as if you are old friends?”, Celia asked Ayo as they exited the venue of the event. The biggest and most sought-after business development expert on the continent had come to speak in their city and Ayo had literally dragged her along. She was grateful that Ayo was her bestie and especially because she did not allow her settle into what she called ‘business bad habits’.

“I was once like you and got hurt really badly, but I had someone who dragged me out of my bad habits so I have decided to pay it forward beginning with you, my dear Celia”, Ayo answered her friend. “I think I will tell you more of my story if you bribe me with dinner at Transcorp this evening. I’ve been looking for someone to take me out and provide great company, and you fit that need perfectly.”

Celia chuckled as she walked to the car with Ayo and told the driver to take them to Transcorp Hotel. She needed all the information she could get, or would she call it ‘soap cutting’. They decided to settle down at the poolside restaurant and after placing their orders, Ayo started talking.

“You know how I used to be a diehard introvert who would do anything to avoid interacting with people right? Well, it worked very well during my 9 to 5 but after I transitioned fully into entrepreneurship, it became my biggest weakness. As you already know, the company I worked for was one of the top leaders in the industry and had established a great reputation after being in business for over 79 years.

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Without making a lot of effort, we always had a steady stream of new customers who were referred by those we had worked for. I just took it for granted that when I started my business, people would automatically find me the same way. I was so so wrong.”

“After six months of operation with zero clients, I reached out in desperation to my uncle who was doing a similar business as mine and cried out for help. That I was technically sound was not in doubt, but I didn’t just understand why clients were not rushing me like hot Agege bread”, Ayo said with dramatic hand movements to buttress her point as Celia laughed.

“Anyway, my uncle told me to take a 1-month break from my business and come work with him which I readily agreed to. I noticed that he was always going from one business lunch to another business dinner to golf clubs and ceremonies. The common denominator with all these meetings was that he kept looking for opportunities to build relationships and be of value to these people he kept meeting. He didn’t pitch to anyone the first time he was meeting them. Somehow, the conversation just flowed from shared interests before business was ever mentioned. I noticed that he was comfortable with people which I was not and I knew instinctively that that was the first mindset block I needed to work on.”

Ayo went on to tell Celia how she had to step out of her cocoon and interact with other people, which is called networking. Within three months her business picked up as more people got to know the value she offered and trust her too, leading to many business deals. On her own part, she made sure that she did her best to keep the relationships open while continuing to meet new people. It was during one of those business meetings that she had met the expert who spoke at the event that evening and they had kept in touch since then.

Networking correctly is a powerful tool for business acceleration. It is said that people do business with people that they ‘know, like and trust’. Do your best to expand your network and show people the value you carry, and watch your business soar.