Networking is a necessary part of running a small business. As you grow, it becomes increasingly important to stay connected with other people in your industry and potential customers. Whether you’re attending an event or chatting on social media, here are 12 tips for networking effectively:
1. Never approach networking as a one-way street – always be interested in what others have to say
There is a tendency in sales to talk obsessively about ourselves, but successful networking is all about being interested in other people.
You should be honest and open – don’t be a ‘closet salesman. Make connections, not just connections that can lead to sales. Even if you are only at the stage of developing your network, make sure you keep in touch with everyone you meet and return all calls or emails (assuming they weren’t abusive).
A successful networker will have a lot of connections, but will still have a good rapport with each person in their network. Remember that the most important connection is to yourself.
2. Prepare for your networking event
Some of the most important preparation is mental, that is, the quality of the attitude with which you approach your meeting. Research has shown that an individual’s state of mind – their expectations and beliefs – powerfully impacts on what they actually experience.
So before you go to a meeting, think about what it will be like for you – how nervous or excited you will be, what it will feel like to be there, what topics are likely to come up, how you will react if they do. It might seem corny but visualizing success can really help produce it.
Another key preparation is research. Find out as much as possible about the company involved, its products and services, and any individuals
Make sure you’re on time for meetings and don’t let your phone distract you when they are happening.
3. Networking events are full of opportunities, but you have to pick up on them
This means that you should be alert to what other people are saying – don’t let the conversation wander off into personal or unrelated areas. If somebody starts talking about an area where they could use your help, offer your services, don’t wait for them to ask.
If the person you are speaking to is not actually offering any opportunities, use your best judgment on whether they would be receptive to an approach – don’t waste your time trying with someone who wouldn’t help out even if they were in a position of power.
4. Know what you want from networking
Talking about what you want from networking is to make sure your intention for the meeting is clear. For example, will it be an introduction, gathering information, or trying to make a sale.
Before you go into a meeting, make sure that you know what your intention is. For example, whether your intention is an introduction, gathering information, or trying to make a sale. The more you know about the event and its agenda, the easier it will be to make connections with people who can help you achieve what you set out for.
Don’t forget to listen as well as talk! Good networking involves listening as much as talking and learning from those around you. Listen to hear if someone is offering opportunities- if they are not and seem uninterested in talking with you then move on. Ask open-ended questions and try to find out what they’re looking for in order to find out where your two companies could work together. Listen to others’ opinions and share your thoughts carefully without dominating the conversation.
5. Ensure you give as much as you get
If making contacts was purely about giving, networking would soon become tiring and fruitless. However, there is a major ‘give-back element to it – every time someone does something for you or helps you out, you should try and repay the debt.
It is when people feel that they are giving too much, without receiving anything in return, that they resent networking – your aim should be to prove them wrong. This doesn’t mean you give back in exactly the same way or on the same scale; it can include any form of support or assistance you can provide.
6. Ban networking from your vocabulary
People tend to think about networking when in fact the approach they are using is really just making contacts with someone.
So instead of thinking about it as networking, think of it as ‘making connections’. This will free you up to think more creatively and positively – most people love meeting new people but don’t like imposing on others so they’d prefer you to approach them than they have to come to you.
Don’t think of networking as networking; think of it as making connections. Networking is often seen as a thing you do when you’re not really sure what else to do. Making connections, on the other hand, is more open-minded and creative. Lots of people love meeting new people but don’t like imposing on others so they’d prefer you to approach them than they have to come to you.
7. Ask questions and listen carefully to the responses
Asking questions and listening carefully to the responses builds confidence and allows for more meaningful connections. If you don’t understand something, ask for clarification – this shows that you value what people say and want to share their perspectives.
Assimilating other ideas and opinions will help you to create conversations that are less one-sided. If you ask questions and listen carefully, it’ll build your confidence and allow for more meaningful connections.
Don’t forget what is most important when making a connection: who the person is. Ask the right questions to understand their position, experience, and who they know that may be able to help you. Don’t just ask about their background and position, but also what matters to them in life and what they’re passionate about.
8. Be interested rather than interesting
When people talk about networking, the word interesting is often one of the first that springs to mind – if only we could be more interesting!
While there is no doubt that it’s nice to feel interesting, the truth of the matter is that anything you say will only be remembered if you are seen as being interested in others.
When making a connection, don’t forget who the person is. Ask them about what matters to them in life and what they’re passionate about.
Meeting someone new is actually a very intense experience, and it’s one of the most intense experiences we have in everyday life. All of our senses are heightened and we’re more likely to retain information than when we’re meeting people in normal circumstances. That means that you will remember what happens for much longer than the actual conversation.
The first thing to do when you meet someone new is relaxed. It’s important that people feel at ease with you otherwise they’ll never be able to connect with you. After relaxing, start by asking them how their life has been – not just something trivial like asking about the weather outside but about how they’re feeling and what their day has been like. This will help them to feel more relaxed and ready for conversation.
Don’t just ask about their background and position, but also what matters to them in life and what they’re passionate about. Be interested rather than interesting – it’ll mean that people want to talk with you again!
9. Be conscious of your body language
Some people tend to think that if we’re not talking, then we’re not networking. This is a huge mistake. In fact, studies have shown that more than half of all communication is non-verbal, which means body language is key. People tend to recall how they were made feel long after an encounter – so if they feel cold or awkward from your interactions, they’ll remember it when trying to make a connection with someone else in the future.
Good body language will help to create a connection with other people, and it’ll make both of you feel more comfortable. It’s important that the interactions between you and others are as smooth as possible.
There are many different types of body language, but two main ones: open and closed. When we want to connect with someone, we tend to open our bodies and become receptive to what others say. This is the opposite of closed body language, which is when we fold our arms or legs, look away from people, appear disengaged, or cross our legs.
People will remember how they were made feel long after an encounter – so if you make them feel cold or awkward with your interactions, they’ll remember it when trying to make a connection with someone else in the future.
You don’t have to memorize exactly what each position means but if you’re conscious of your own body language and how other people are reacting to it, then you can use this knowledge to play a tactical advantage – holding yourself differently depending on who you’re meeting and the conversation you’re having.
10. Follow up! Reach out again when you have a new idea, ask for feedback, or share an accomplishment
It’s always nice to get a response after reaching out to someone but it’s even better to get an appropriate response. If you’ve just sent your contact an email asking for advice, then they should respond with that. Follow up!
When reaching out again, try and do something different. For example; send them a link to something relevant to their business. This way, they’ll start to think of you as the person who always has something useful and interesting to say. If they’ve seen that you’re motivated and serious about your goals then it makes it much more likely that they will want to be associated with you in some way.
If you’ve just sent your contact an email asking for advice, then they should respond with that.
You could also ask them to meet up! If you want to build a relationship with someone quickly then one of the best ways is by meeting in person. Most people are busy but if you’re determined enough eventually it’s likely that you’ll catch them at a time when they have some free time. Don’t let the chance slip away – be persistent, but in a friendly way!
People who are well connected know that it’s important to always ask for advice when reaching out; if you’re asking someone for something then they might feel obliged to help because you asked. If you don’t actually need their advice though, then people will often feel frustrated. People love to be useful and if you can show that you were just asking because it shows a genuine interest in them, then they’ll be more than happy to help!
Once you’ve met with someone and built up a rapport it’s important that you keep the momentum going. If people know what you’re doing and how their advice has helped you then chances are they’ll be even more open to help you again in the future.
One final point: try and develop a system for following up with people so that it becomes as easy as possible. If you’re sending out hundreds of emails every month then it’s likely that a few slip through the net no matter how many reminders you set. If you find that people are responding poorly to your emails or simply not replying, then it’s likely the fault of the system you have for following up rather than them being rude!
11. Don’t be afraid to take risks – introduce yourself to someone who might not seem like they’re interested in talking to you at first glance
If you’re reading this then there’s a good chance that you already know about the power of networking. However, not everyone is lucky enough to be aware of its benefits and some people may not feel comfortable reaching out and introducing themselves (don’t worry: we all feel like this sometimes!)
Introduce yourself to someone who might not seem like they’re interested in talking to you at first glance
Sometimes networking can feel like a game of chance; which of the people you meet will want to return your call and be willing to help? When networking with someone new, you’re likely to feel more uncertain about how they’ll respond. One valuable piece of advice for this scenario is that it’ doesn’t really matter.
One of the most effective networking skills you could have is to be confident in approaching anyone and asking them for a favor, whatever their response to your introduction might be. As long as your networking isn’t creepy or awkward then it’s likely that people will appreciate your effort and willingness to take a risk. If they see how comfortable you are networking with them, then it becomes much more likely that they’ll want to help you.
Another thing to remember is that networking isn’t just about people who are better off than yourself: networking is the art of finding common ground and interests between strangers and turning those into mutually beneficial relationships. You can do this with anyone; no matter how rich or poor they might seem.
12. Thank people properly after they have been of help to you
People forget more easily how you made them feel than what you did for them, so it is always a good idea to follow up a successful interaction with a thank-you phone call or e-mail, offering to reciprocate any way you can.
Remember to follow up after networking with a thank-you email or phone call
Following up is essentially networking on steroids; not only are you networking because you want something, but now you’re networking with gratitude.
There’s no need to go overboard when thanking people either: simple things like saying “thank you for taking the time to talk to me”, or “thanks for taking the time to explain that” really go a long way.
People will often report back with positive responses after networking, so it’s important to remember to thank them as well. Sometimes this can be as simple as sending along with snippets of relevant information that they might find useful or telling them about your networking successes.
Networking is an integral part of any successful business strategy. You can’t just throw money at the problem and hope it’ll work out for you. It’s important to have networking skills that are genuine, intelligent, and gracious–and this article has provided you with some tips on how to do just that! I hope this blog post will help you with networking skills and networking strategies. Good luck networking!
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