A wise man once told me, “our industry is too small to make enemies.” His statement was true then, and it’s still right today. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve done the opposite of making enemies and instead have networked and made friends around the world, from distributors to competing manufacturers to customers—even if they’re customers of a competitor. Networking has been essential in my career, and I think it’s a key to success for everyone. Most business professionals agree with me, too. Seventy-nine percent say that networking is a valuable tool. Let’s take a moment to go over what business networking is, why it matters, and how to network.
To put it simply, business networking is connecting with people, online or in-person, who can provide meaningful connections in your industry and professional life.
To expound, it means building relationships with colleagues, suppliers, and distributors—the people you see and with whom you do business regularly. Business networking also means nurturing personal relationships with people you can call if you hit a difficult spot in your career and connecting with people who can help advance your career or provide valuable advice.
Networking can be done in person or online, like through LinkedIn, but most people agree that in-person networking is best. When you meet with someone face to face, you get social cues and body language that create a stronger connection as well as physical benefits.
(Developmental psychologist Susan Pinker says in-person contact reduces stress and makes us feel good.)
Networking may sound a little self-serving, but it benefits everyone involved. Here are some of the advantages of networking and why you should make time to do it.
I love my work at Listen Technologies, so I’m not job hunting, but I’ve seen and experienced the value of networking for career advancement in my professional life. With the people in my network, I can get advice, discuss industry matters, or find future business partners for Listen Technologies.
Surveys show that people find new jobs and gain career advantages through networking. A LinkedIn global survey revealed that 85 percent of jobs are filled through networking, not employment ads. Other research over the past decade confirms that assessment, with an estimated 70 percent or more of all open positions being filled through networking.
I value meeting new people at events. One of the reasons I appreciate new connections is that you never know when you’ll convert someone from potential client to customer. An Oxford University study showed that 40 percent of prospective clients become customers when you meet with them face to face, as opposed to 16 percent when you don’t connect in person. That study also showed the value of trade shows. About half of business travelers respond that between 5 and 20 percent of their new clients came from participating in those events.
Talking to other professionals in the same field helps me keep up with what’s going on in the industry worldwide. I feel like I have my hands on the pulse of what’s happening in the AV industry. However, that doesn’t mean I understand what’s happening in another sector of the industry or on another continent. The world’s a small place, so it’s critical to keep up with trends even if they’re not in your own backyard or sector.
Sometimes networking is more than making business connections. It’s about forming valuable friendships. Through my work as a distributor and now as a VP at Listen Technologies, I’ve met people from all over, including competitors. We all have something in common, though: We live in the same work environment and share experiences. These relationships are essential to me.
Scientists also tell us that friendships are vital to our health. Having strong social relationships helps our blood pressure, BMI, abdominal obesity, and more. On the flip side, the lack of social connections can lead to heart disease, strokes, cancer, and obesity.
I prefer meeting people and networking face to face because I think it’s a better way to build a strong connection. However, I see the value in online interactions through platforms like LinkedIn, especially in the wake of a global pandemic.
Listen Technologies sends employees to trade shows and other events because we value meeting current and future customers—as well as partners and competitors—face to face. Whether you’re traveling to trade shows and meetings or networking online, here are some tips for successful networking:
- Ask your connections for introductions to people you want to meet.
- Listen to people when they’re speaking.
- Ask questions and participate in discussions.
- Don’t monopolize anyone’s time.
- Regularly follow up and check in with people you already know as well as new connections.
- Don’t ask everyone you meet for a job. If you are job searching, inquire about information that will help you in your search.
- Remember to say thank you to people for taking the time to offer advice and for their friendship.
Our industry is still young, and it’s dependent on dedicated people with a passion for what they do. Building relationships with people in the AV field through networking will help you in your professional life. Networking is the key to success for me, and it’s one of the reasons I love business travel.
If you’re interested in learning more about the events where you can meet team members from Listen Technologies, go to our website.