Effective business networking is the linking together of individuals who, through trust and relationship building, become walking ambassadors and advertisements for one another. Networking is commonly defined as the exchange of ideas and information for the benefit of either or both parties where networks are individuals talking to each other, sharing ideas, information and resources. Networking can mean different things to people and businesses, but the bottom line is that we all need networking to be successful. To small businesses, personal networks are often the far most valuable asset. Conclusively, business networking is simply about building and cultivating relationships with people of similar interest in ways that can benefit all parties.
Business networking is not something new; people have been networking as long as they have been communicating with one another. Having people to exchange information with, ask for advice of or seek assistance from can lay a vital groundwork for future development. The ability to relate well with others is a sign of a person’s mastery of the art of networking.
A good network often means the difference between scoring a new business or not. Subsequently, learning how to network effectively is one of the most powerful tools an individual can use to advance in their personal as well as professional life. But how do we develop our networks, and in what way do we best utilise them?
The only way to become an expert networker is to practice. The more you do it, the better you get. Being visible and getting noticed is a great benefit of networking. Make sure to regularly prioritise and attend business and social events that will help to get your face known. You and your brands reputation as knowledgeable, reliable and supportive will grow by offering useful information and tips to people who need it. You are also more likely to get more referrals and leads as you will be the one that pops into their head when they are in need of what you offered.
Make sure to surround yourself with individuals that challenge you intellectually. Since those usually interact with other like-minded persons it will increase your possibility to network with, for you, new intellectual individuals. Having proactive colleagues, managers and business owners does not only provide you with golden keys to getting to know like-minded people; they will probably also teach you a lot and help to make sure you become the best possible version of yourself. Surround yourself with people that challenge you intellectually and that has the ability to look upon actions from a different perspective than yourself; networking is a great way to tap into advice and expertise that you would not otherwise be able to get hold of.
Diversify and learn from everyone
Networking conversations can enter a bad path quickly if the person you are speaking to can tell that you are more interested in gaining information such as contact names rather that learning from the experience of the person to whom you are speaking. Having a diverse network is just as important as having a large network. If one only has a network with people alike the network easily become insular. When your network is diverse however, you increase the possibility to know connectors; individuals with the golden key. Furthermore, you will get improved confidence the more you regularly push yourself to talk to people you do not know, hence networking pushes individuals grow and learn. Always be respectful and remember that you have much to learn from each person you meet.
To give back
A crucial element of networking that people tend to forget is giving back, but networking is a two-way street. People who do not contribute to others tend not to get given referrals. Developing a business networking strategy that ensures that you are always able to give value to others will increase the value you get back. When applicable, give your time, referrals and advice. It will most likely come back to you in positive business opportunities.
Keep in touch
After new meetings and networking events, make sure to stay connected with those that you have just meet. Take a look at the business cards you receive, make a small notation on them for yourself to be reminded of what you dialogue was about. Shortly after your initial meeting, make sure to reconnect; either through e-mail or phone. Try to connect with them also on another level than business. People bond by overlapping areas of interest, no matter what they are, meaning that you have to cultivate real deep relationships with your contacts. Once you have started to care about one another; you have developed a solid professional contact.
To conclude, get used to continuously appraise your relationships and try to get and give as much as possible. Networking is a lifelong project!