Networking is defined as a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest. It is a skill that takes time and practice to master. If you are in sales or business development, you have been to networking events and likely belong to a networking organization. But, are you the professional who hands your business card to as many people as you can or are you the professional who takes the time to have meaningful conversations with other professionals?
So, I ask: Are you a networker or a seller at an event?
If done correctly, networking, combined with the use of social media, can be hugely beneficial to your professional goals. There is etiquette that should be followed at networking events and if you pay close attention to the signals you receive from your fellow networkers, you can begin to establish a strategy that works best for you and your business.
Below are some tips to help you avoid a “hard sell” approach and become a networking pro!
1. Build relationships by establishing and maintaining contacts.
LinkedIn is a great tool to use to maintain contacts. Throw email out the door and start connecting more with people on LinkedIn. It’s less intrusive, a way to share your organization’s content, and helpful to the new relationships you build.
Now is especially a great time to utilize this tool in a world of social distancing. However, the benefits of LinkedIn have been prominent before the world transitioned to virtual, as you can stay up-to-speed with industry trends, and manage your connections, anytime, anywhere.
2. Give something without expecting something in return.
This is an obvious statement without a lot of explanation needed, but it’s an important one. When we help others succeed, it builds a more substantial business relationship and forms trust. It shows people that you truly care about the relationship you have formed.
3. Be a connector.
Connect people who don’t know each other but who may benefit from meeting. When you connect two people who benefit from meeting, they are likely to return the favor. Being a connector is one of the best ways to become a fantastic networker.
How do you do this virtually? Copy an individual on an email introducing them to the person you would like them to connect with and add a reason why they should connect. For example, your colleague may have been looking for a guest post for their blog site; connect them with someone you know is looking to contribute to other blogs!
4. Do NOT walk into a room and be that Rolodex-builder and card passer-outer.
You can be a go-getter without being just a Rolodex-builder. The key to this is to network with professionals that make sense to your business. By grouping professionals into various categories, you can prioritize the information you share about your products or services. Modify your style of promotion for each group and avoid the “hard sell” to those who are not within your target market.
LinkedIn has many groups to join virtually; take advantage of this feature until you are able to meet face-to-face again.
5. When introducing yourself to someone, say the name of your business first.
People are more likely to remember a business name than a person’s name. How many times have you heard “I’m bad with names”?
6. Make people want to be around you.
Don’t take things too seriously by being all business all the time. It’s okay to be a human being and have fun.
7. Networking is not about how many people you know, but how well you know them.
It’s better to have 10 close business contacts than 100 who barely know you. The more someone knows you, the more likely they are to connect you with others.
8. Always carry your business cards.
Remember, everything is a business networking opportunity. Never leave your home or office without business cards.
Another potential opportunity is to add a QR code to your business card.
9. Where are your targeted clients?
Find out where your targeted clients are and arrange to be there ready to network.
10. Stick with the winners.
Stay abreast of the local innovators and decision-makers. Find out who’s on your region’s top 40 under 40 list. Who are the key players among your area’s executives and Chamber members?
Surround yourself with people who will inspire you to greatness. There is a great quote that many business leaders follow: “You’re the average of the 10 people you spend time with”.
11. Work on building a network before you need it.
Networking is a lot like marketing; it should never stop. You don’t need to be a master at networking; you just need to make each connection count. People appreciate when you are genuine, share information, and connect them to others.
What are your best networking tips? Share your thoughts on this below or feel free to post your comments when sharing this blog! We would love to hear from you!
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Disclaimer: Please note that this is not all-inclusive. Our guidance is designed only to give general information on the issues actually covered. It is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all laws which may be applicable to your situation, treat exhaustively the subjects covered, provide legal advice, or render a legal opinion. Consult your own legal advisor regarding the specific application of the information to your own plan.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.