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Business Networking for Virtual Assistants is about Building Relationships

Approximately 90% of people who are in business, hate face to face networking.  Business networking for virtual assistants can be a challenge.   It can be the idea of walking into a room full of strangers and starting a conversation.  It can be the fear of self-promotion.  Or it can be basically the effort you have to put in before and after the event.

It really doesn’t matter what you don’t like about business networking, the fact remains that it can be good for your business.  This why most small business owners take the leap of faith and attend a networking event.

Isolation and Networking

A lot of virtual assistants feel isolated in their business because for one reason or another they can’t actually attend face to face networking events.

The good news is that this is not an issue.  The process for face to face networking can actually be followed online.  You do have to adjust a few things but by and large it can be more effective networking online that going to an actual event.  It is certainly a lot more cost effective.

The Key to Success is Putting in the Same Effort

Business networking is about building relationships.  Building relationships is about showing an interest in others, asking the right questions and being as helpful as possible.  You need to like the person and they need to like you. This takes time and effort.  Like any relationship, you need to constantly work at it and communicate well so that both parties get some benefit.

For example, if you were going out on the weekend looking to meet someone that you want to build a personal relationship with.  You would be hoping that relationship would lead to a more lasting personal journey like marriage.

You wouldn’t expect to meet someone and on the same night ask them to marry you!

It’s the same when it comes to your business.  It takes a few meetings, a few discussions, some interactions and even a few helpful gestures before you would consider that you are on a path to building a relationship.

Steps In Building a Business Relationship Online

The typical steps in building a business relationship for a virtual assistant or VA would be:

  1. Connect with the person online through social media.
  2. Make a comment on one of their articles or discussion posts.
  3. Retweet or share something of theirs.
  4. Connect with them by sharing a phone call, skype chat or email (ask them about their business and their personal lives – it’s not about you).
  5. Send them an article of interest (either for their business or their personal hobby or interest).
  6. Chat again, find out if you can send a referral to them.
  7. Invite them to a group you are in and introduce them to the group.
  8. Give them a recommendation or endorsement on Linkedin.
  9. Mention them in a tweet.
  10. Give them a review on a directory or site like Yelp.
  11. Invite them to download a free ebook, resource or lead magnet that you know they are interested in (thus getting them into your sales funnel).
  12. Make them a client.

The benefits of the above is that you can achieve this in a few weeks with minimal cost.

Think of the effort and cost you need to expend in attending a networking event and building a relationship with someone face to face.  You would:

  1. Register and pay to attend the event.
  2. Get ready for the event, print some business cards, have a 30 second infomercial ready, get the outfit right and travel to the event, find parking etc.
  3. Attend the event and try to meet 3 people who are interested in a follow up coffee and one on one meeting with you.
  4. Have a follow up coffee meeting with them (this needs some planning so there will be a week or so between meetings).
  5. Establish what they are interested in and find out what they are looking for at the meeting.
  6. Follow up after the meeting with something of interest (to generate more communication between you).
  7. Arrange a follow up meeting (again venue, travel, parking, outfit, resources).
  8. Follow up after the meeting.

You can see from the above list that this could actually take months.  A lot more time, effort and cost before you consider that you know them well enough to start talking about how you can help each other in your business.

Yes, there will be times where it may take a fraction of this time.  Generally you can plan a 3 month lead time before your connections and efforts start paying off.  When networking online, this can be reduced to a few weeks.

So make a daily plan – start connecting and building relationships that will help you in your business.