Expert Advice On Business Networking And Tips On Developing Your Networking Skills

Kevin M. Butler interview – founder of ChamberFish.com

I’m pleased to bring you the following interview with Kevin M. Butler, owner of ChamberFish.com — the sites focus is on helping business professionals network effectively as well as increase the contacts within their own personal business network.

Josh: How do you define Business Networking and why do you feel it is important?

Kevin M. Butler: Business networking is a simple yet often misused form of marketing for your business. Stephen Covey gives examples of how relationships have evolved over time. In the past, relationships and communication were based on ethics, morals, and the character of the individual.

As these concepts evolved, we began to take shortcuts to attempt to get to the end-result faster. The “Mental Technologies” are manipulative, quick-fix, and demeaning. Business networking, when successfully performed, goes back to the traditional ways of communicating.

I would define business networking as relationships but it’s much more complex. There is no formula, secret or manual. Developing genuine relationships will generate business down the road either directly for your benefit or for your other immediate business connections.

Josh: Can you share a couple of ideas that someone could put into practice that would help them to improve their business networking skills?

Kevin M. Butler: Business networking isn’t about referrals. It’s about knowing someone so well that you always have their personal interest and business interest at heart. When you schedule a one-to-one meeting, get to know their family, hobbies, and goals. By the end of the meeting, you will probably have several resources to suggest to them. Offering resources to help someone reach their personal goals is just as important as a business referral.

Additionally, when you are going through your daily life, you will pick up additional resources that will remind you how you can help others. If you have generated a real relationship, they will be doing the same thing for you. Always, let everyone you know what your goals and needs are as they change and evolve so they can always be on the lookout.

Josh: At what point in the initial connection (i.e. upon first meeting someone) do you exchange business cards? Or what is your approach towards getting their card so that follow-up is possible?

Kevin M. Butler: Most often, I will immediately exchange business cards. This gets the formality out of the way. I then ask what company they are with, and what their role is. At this point, I know whether they are an immediate business lead. The conversation doesn’t stop there! Now that I’ve made a formal introduction, business conversation, I start to move into the personal conversation which includes their goals, opinions, and ideas. This is where the relationship is born.

I’ve made several connections only through the personal conversation where I had absolutely no intention to make any business connections. Not only does this potentially start a nice friendship, it also may identify other connections. You never know where your conversation will lead you. I would rather make two or three genuine connections slowly instead of powering through a networking event collecting business cards of thirty people that I haven’t had the chance really spend any time with. The value lies in quality, not quantity.

Josh: Based on your experiences, which places and activities have you found best for meeting new people and expanding your business network?

Kevin M. Butler: Trade shows are my personal favorite because you can often meet business owners and interesting people. Always place your booth in a high traffic location.

Paid networking groups are normally my least favorite because it’s referral driven and relationships tend to suffer. Since most of them only let one type of business in, there is often a disparity of referrals. A gift-basket sales person may get tons of referrals while the building architect may get one referral a year.

Chamber of commerce events are fun and potentially rewarding however, it’s usually a feeding frenzy for sales people. (and I say that being one of them…) Although I don’t normally recommend moving through a crowd quickly, in this case, it helps. Make quick introductions, decide if there is a potential relationship is possible. If so, stop and spend the time. If not, move on until you find someone interesting.

Josh: Kevin, you’re the founder of ChamberFish.com — can you share a quick overview, as well as some of the benefits that folks will gain from plugging into what you all are doing there? Also, what led you to start ChamberFish.com?

Kevin M. Butler: I find that many small to medium sized business owners are at work and do not spend alot of time networking. They are speeding 10-14 hours a day managing their business and don’t feel the value of networking. By providing an online venue for networking, they have the ability to network on their own time.

Also, Chamberfish provides the ability to send, receive, and manage electronic referrals within your own personal network. You can also post “projects” that you would like to have other members refer their network to. For example, let’s say you want someone to mow your lawn. Once you post your project, other members will see this and can either refer themselves or someone in their personal network.

Chamberfish.com is free and will be supported only by very modest ad-space sales.

Josh: Can you share a personal “networking” success story with us?

Kevin M. Butler: About a year ago, my wife started talonbookkeeping.com, a bookkeeping service for small to medium sized businesses. We posted a craigslist ad and received our first client.

Charlie was a former baseball player looking for bookkeeping services. We met with Charlie and upon hearing about his background and goals, I thought he would be a great person to introduce to my friend Scott who had a similar background and goals. We introduced them and they decided to go into business together as sport agents and started Winning Edge Sports and Entertainment, LLC.

Since then, Scott was recruited for several local marketing campaigns, manages several athletes, and is now in the process of developing a local cable television show highlighting amateur athletes who are working towards the pros.

The only effort it took on my part was listening and connecting two people together who could complement each other. I expected nothing in return but it has truly enhanced my friendship with Scott and I look forward to his success. Chances are, when I need a resource or connection, he will be there for me too.

*brought to you by BusinessNetworkingAdvice.com

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