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The Secret to Successful Networking in Ireland

Although markets are down at the moment, small entrepreneurs are still in the game. So I was wondering how thousands of SMEs in Ireland get business in this slow period. Are they getting some sneaky advice from ad agencies or are they all marketing experts themselves?

Alternatively, does each of them work with a marketing consultant or a professional business developer? How come that when it is so complicated to hire good sales people and you are lucky if you get somebody to stay with you longer than for a few months, small Irish businesses are so successful despite the economic downturn?

Meeting businessmen and women every day, talking to them and investigating their businesses, I came to a simple answer: referrals. Starting with friends and family members who “know somebody” up to sophisticated ways to get to the highest levels of corporate management, small business owners have discovered the most powerful strategy to increase sales. So how does it work in reality, what are the specifics in Ireland and how can you also benefit from referrals?

Networking versus “notworking”?

Recently, I joined a founder of one highly successful international corporation via an online networking portal – he even shared his business details with me – and I can send him a message whenever I want - yes, sometimes it is that easy!

However, in most cases you need to put more effort into it. If you want to be heard, you need to listen first. If you want to be known, you need to know people first. If you want to get referrals, you need to give referrals first.

However, this time is spent in a friendly, non-pushy environment, more often than not complemented by a relaxed and entertaining programme. On top of this, you get well-qualified leads; people who trust you and are prepared to do business with you. So why would you not go for it?

Succeed with Networking in Ireland

Before you set off for a networking event in Ireland, you should know about the specifics of networking in Ireland; think how you can use them for your benefit and prepare well for them:

20 men : 2 women

Having visited many networking groups, social events and various breakfast and evening seminars in Dublin and outside the Capital as well, I often came across an overwhelming number of men over women. Is this because the Irish economy is still male-driven while women are just trying to break the glass ceiling?

Difficult to say, but this definitely does not mean that women are not great networkers. The opposite seems to be true, and there are bright exceptions in networking events and organisations, such as Women in Business, where female entrepreneurs join their forces to learn new things and to network. You bet that there is a great atmosphere and a good networking buzz!

Everyone knows everyone

Many times have I heard somebody say how business in Ireland is dependent on connections and on “who you know” rather than “what you can do”. Definitely, with Ireland being such a small country, there is a pearl of wisdom in this. So what better way than networking will help you build links to the “significant” people?

Don’t be cheeky!

“It’s too cheeky. I won’t go there and smile at all those funny faces.”

When you network, is it just pretending that you are interested in others? Is it all just a tasteless role play? No way! Irish people are more truthful than anyone else and the affective behaviour will simply not suit our nature.

Then, why does networking have an image of affectation and cheekiness? One of the reasons could be that most international networking groups started in America and they do have a tendency to bring the “American spirit” with it. However, the Irish know very well how to apply what works and leave out parts that are “a way too much”.

So do not worry, in Ireland it still works well: the more natural you are, the more successful your networking efforts will be.

Big versus small companies

In networking, we could distinguish between two levels:

1. SMEs and start-up companies that are building new contacts and every single person is interesting for them,

2. Big corporates who are building their networks on the highest level, looking for introductions to carefully selected people who they know will bring in exceptional value.

The question now is, whether these two can co-exist in one room, whether they can use the same approach to networking. As every human being living in the modern society has on average 200 acquaintances and relatives, there definitely is a potential for corporates as well. So the probability that one of, say, twenty people you talk to, knows somebody who knows your dream referral is quite high, especially in a country like Ireland where “everybody knows everybody”. Would you give it a chance?
About Author Simona Rusnakova :

This article was written by members of BNI Trinity - <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.

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Article Added on Wednesday, September 24, 2008
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