One of the key aspects of being successful in the business world, is to be a good networker. As the saying goes, ’it’s not what you know it’s who you know’. So, being able to connect with the right people is a vital part of making sure you kick your career into the right gear. Finding the right people to make connections with isn’t just about luck. It is also about having the skills to find the right people to connect with and then successfully network with them. If networking isn’t your strongest point, here are a few tips you can follow in order to develop some of the most amazing habits of networking and eventually boost your business.
1. Ask Questions
When you are meeting someone for the first time you obviously want to learn more about them and what they do. These are key facts in understanding how they can benefit you by becoming a part of your network. The obvious way to do that is to ask them questions. Ask them not only about their work but also about things they do outside of work. You don’t want to come across as someone who purely wants them around for business. Even if that is the case, no one enjoys to be treated that way and it is unlikely that they are going to stick around. If you are heading along to an event and know who is going to be attending, do some research beforehand. Jump on to their LinkedIn page or any other social media page they are using, in order to find out more about them and their career. However, don’t assume you know it all. When you do finally meet these people, you can also ask them what they are currently working on or any future projects or goals they are hoping to achieve.
2. Have Good Etiquette
Even though you may be able to become more casual and laid back with your connections after a while, make sure to follow all the rules of proper etiquette. Having a proper etiquette will allow you to come across as an organized professional. After all, this is the kind of professionals most business people prefer to work with. Remember that first impressions are everything. If you have arranged a particular meeting time with someone, try and get there ten or fifteen minutes early. If something comes up and you know you are going to be late, get into touch with them straight away to let them know- see if they would prefer to schedule the meeting for another time. When you are meeting people, ensure to maintain good eye contact, give out firm handshakes, always introduce yourself and dress appropriately. Avoid chewing gum or eating while talking to them as well.
3. Be Helpful
When you are talking to someone, whether it is for the first time or not, keep an ear out during the conversation for ways you may be able to help them. While we make connections to help ourselves, a great way to show you are networking-worthy, is by demonstrating what you can do for that person. After all, the person you are talking to is probably trying to make connections in order to help themselves too. As soon as you hear them talking about an issue, make sure to think of a solution- maybe you know someone who could help them. Pass on their details if you do, and this is how you are effectively networking.
4. Follow up After Meeting
After meeting someone and exchanging contact information, it can be a good idea to follow up with them soon after. Send them an email or give them a call with something along the lines of ’it was nice meeting you the other day’. Maybe add in something like ’we should catch up again soon, so we can continue the conversation we were having’. If they are interested when you contact them, it also doesn’t hurt to arrange another meeting as well. Try to do these follow ups, a few days after meeting the person, if the situation permits. You don’t want them thinking you have forgotten about them or give the impression you weren’t particularly interested in the meeting.
5. Become a Regular
Heading along to just one event and trying to network with everyone there, isn’t likely to be of much help to you. You need to make sure people can remember and recognise your face. One of the best ways to do this is by becoming a regular. Try to take a note of all the upcoming events in that area. Try to head along to as many as possible and soon people will start remembering you. Regular attendance can also show people that you are reliable and that you will always be there for them. Don’t over book yourself though. We are only human and sometimes we can’t do everything. So, do your research about the people attending each event and head along to the ones that would be beneficial to you.
6. Ask About More Connections
When you’ve just talked to someone for the first time, it might seem a bit difficult to ask this question straightaway. You don’t want to come across as someone who uses people for their connections. However, in the area of business it’s not such an awkward thing. If you’ve had a more formal meeting with someone and the path of discussion seems to lend itself, don’t be afraid to ask them whether they know of any other contacts to network. If they are happy with the impression they’ve gotten from you then it’s likely they won’t mind rattling off a few names and numbers. If this situation makes you nervous you could also return the favour without them asking and suggest people you know for them as well.
7. Have Patience
Not every single person you meet is going to instantly become a valuable connection to you. This could be because their business venture can’t benefit you in any way. Or, this person is just not someone who you get along or connect with on a personal level. The key is to have patience. You may have to meet a few duds before you can have a conversation with someone that you know is going to do great things for you. When you do meet someone who doesn’t interest you, however, don’t act rude. The rumors of bad behavior will spread and it will damage your reputation. What you can do instead, is to take this chance and help their business grow. If they ask to collaborate with you and you decline, don’t just stop there. Explain to them why this wouldn’t work and give them tips on how to improve or find better connections in the future.
8. Be Sociable
This one may seem obvious but sometimes we need to be reminded that we need to be more sociable. Once you’ve been to a few events, met a few people and begun to make a nice circle of connections, you can start to feel too comfortable with them. This means that you forget to take advantage of opportunities. When heading along to events, give yourself some rules or challenges. For example, one rule could be about talking to a new person, as soon as you attend the event. Or, set a number of how many new people you have to talk to before the event is over. If you stop talking to people outside your circle, there is also the chance people will start to get the impression that no one outside your circle is worth your time.
9. Make Yourself Memorable
Apart from just being super friendly and professional, you also need to make yourself more memorable. Most people in the room will be putting their best foot forward, so you need something that is going to make your face stick in people’s minds. When someone asks you the question ’what do you do’ give a more interesting answer. Instead of rattling off the usual spiel about your career and what your job description is, share a more personal description. Maybe you have a funny story about something that happened when you were initially setting up your business. Also, if the conversation turns to talking about more personal non-business related interests, share something interesting that you enjoy.
10. Keep Promises
If you tell someone you will do something, make sure to do it. It might be something as small as saying you will call them tomorrow or send them an email soon. They might seem like small and trivial but people will begin to form the opinion that you’re unreliable- even for the smallest, insignificant things.
The business world can be a tough place to start your career, if no one knows who you are. Start networking as soon as you possibly can and never stop doing that even when you become very successful. By developing these amazing habits, you will soon become a professional networker.