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Networking is one of the most important business skills to master in the franchise industry. It’s equally as important for a franchisor as it is for a franchisee. Developing and nurturing a network of professional peers is vital to career success and can give you a competitive edge in various stages of the entrepreneurial process. Franchisors use networking to enhance their lead-generation and sales strategies, while franchisees and candidates can use networking to build valuable contacts who can help them advance their own interests of owning and running a successful business operation.
But, networking isn’t a quantity over quality proposition and has little to do with the number of connections you currently have on your LinkedIn account. If you want networking help specific to the franchise industry, here are four strategies that can help both franchisors and franchisees.
1. Put yourself out there
Fortunately, the franchising industry puts such a premium on networking opportunities. Franchisors can use a multitude of business events and trade shows to network with potential franchise owners, investors and stakeholders — some of which offer enhanced capabilities through sponsorships. During expos, trade shows, conventions and other franchise events, franchisees can get a feel for industries, brands and business services they might like to investigate one day.
These business networking opportunities are a great way for the two sides to meet, greet and exchange franchise information. But you have to participate — and that begins by putting yourself out there.
Related: 7 Ways to Better Networking
2. Be genuine
Networking gives us all the opportunity to be the type of person we want others to notice. It’s a time to put your best foot forward and present your genuine self. Why does this matter so much? Because, at its heart, franchising is purely a sales environment. Franchisors aren’t just selling the idea of an engaging concept and an attractive business model. They’re owners who are selling themselves and the other franchisees in their system as brand representatives. For franchisees, a networking event is a chance to demonstrate your business acumen, suitability and likeability to own and operate a franchise. For this integrated sales dance to become mutually beneficial, both sides must be genuine and express themselves both sincerely and authentically.
Related: How to Display the Ideal Body Language When Networking
3. Referrals matter in business
Networking is a lot of things, but it’s not selfish in nature. Whether you’re a franchisor looking for new owners or a franchisee looking for a franchise opportunity, it’s never a me-me-me proposition. Networking is a give-and-take environment. And when you spot an opening to provide a genuine referral opportunity, take it. Referrals are the lifeblood of networking, and the business practice relies on individuals looking out for one another. In even the most casual of conversations, a need or concern may come up that isn’t exactly your specialty. But if you know of someone in the franchise community who fits the bill, make a referral. In a way, referrals are a lot like karma. Whatever you choose to put out in the networking universe has the potential to come back to you — sometimes in the most unlikely of circumstances. Referrals always matter.
4. Follow up every chance you get
Some people describe networking as a two-way job interview. Both the franchisor and franchisee are putting themselves out there, taking a chance on connecting to help advance their interests. Sometimes it’s a bullseye. Other times, not. But regardless of the outcome, franchise networkers should never miss the opportunity to follow up with their contacts. Especially in light of the fact that it takes so little effort to do so.
People in the franchising world change jobs and titles all the time. And when the right people notice your diligence in following up, networking can pay off in ways you hadn’t imagined. So, after you’re done collecting your business cards, phone numbers and trade show swag, set aside the proper amount of time to respond to those you’ve met. Use these follow-up opportunities to share your mutual understanding of franchise networking’s value.
Related: The Art of the Follow-Up