The construction industry, like many other service industries, relies heavily on referrals and networking as a means of gaining instructions.
The thought of actually having to go out and network fills many managers with fear and sends them scurrying behind their desks. Swapping a hard hat and clipboard for a suit and briefcase is simply a step too far out of the comfort zone for some.
Networking, like riding a bike, gets easier and better with practice. That isn’t to say that after a couple of events, you’ll be able to stride into a room, identify your target and begin a fascinating and involved conversation which will end in a £100,000 deal (although that would be great!) Nevertheless, by putting the following tips and suggestions in place, you should gradually be able to make the most of each networking event and hopefully make your time away from the workplace, profitable.
Points to remember when Networking In Construction
1. Remember to take your business cards – an obvious one, yet one forgotten by many in the rush to get out the door.
2. If you can, scan the list of invitees beforehand, to identify which individuals will be of most use to your organisation. Then, when you arrive at the event, ask the host to introduce you. This will assist in avoiding being cornered by Billy No Mates who will talk to you about his fanbelt retail business for hours – resulting in no business whatsoever.
3. If, when you arrive, all groups seem to be animatedly chatting between themselves, look for either a person on their own (who will unfortunately probably be Billy No Mates but at least he can start you off) or a group of two or three people. Communications research has shown that groups of these sizes are easier to penetrate and are much more likely to welcome your conversation.
4. Have your elevator speech perfected – but when asked what your organisation offers don’t simply repeat it parrot fashion. Just make sure you can quickly and without rambling, say what it is your firm does, who does it do it for and the part that you play. This should only take a few seconds. Make it sound interesting and dynamic.
“The term ‘elevator pitch’ is a phrase used to quickly and simply define your product, service or business. Short, concise and clearly defines what you are all about.”
5. Remember that a networking event isn’t simply a venue for you to be able to spout on about your organisation all night long to anyone who will listen. In actual fact, listening is much more important than talking. By actively listening, you can find out what the other attendees do, whether they would be of any use to you as a business and whether they perhaps are working on anything for which your firm might be appropriate. Show that you’re interested and do not ask outright for a referral. Remember – these events are held to build relationships, not simply source business immediately. There is a certain degree of etiquette involved, of which you should have knowledge and follow.
6. When you are on site with a client build a rapport about future projects. We can overlook the fact that this current client can become a future client. And, it is much better to maintain a client than look for a new one.
7. Find out if your clients are aware of all the services you provide. Are there other people within your client’s organization who will put out enquiries of interest?
8. Lastly, join an line networking group like The Construction Network which was started to help individuals and organizations within the UK Built Environment understand, embrace and utilise new media.
“The successful networkers I know, the ones receiving tons of referrals and feeling truly happy about themselves, continually put the other person’s needs ahead of their own.” – Bob Burg
By learning and applying the key skills of networking, construction managers can unlock their true business development potential – forging strong, long-lasting business relationships.