Networking is an essential tool for any businessman or entrepreneur. The ability to communicate and connect with others to further improve your business or idea allows you greater reach and scope in acquiring resources or services helpful for your company’s growth.
This is not only a means of progress, but also a precautionary step that allows you to receive help when in need.
So how does someone network? You’ve probably already been doing it to some degree. It’s as simple as talking to others and forming lasting relationships. But what matters is being able to find the right people to talk to and forming the right kinds of relationships with them.
The Right Strategy
First, establish the right kind of strategy for forming a network. Value quality over quantity in your collection of contacts. The most successful network is the one that involves more interpersonal relationships with the right people rather than a large number of purely professional/associative relationships.
When you approach someone, forget that you are working or that you have a particular goal in mind. You want to have a genuine interaction and be interested in the conversation. Show engagement by talking about things you have in common and listening to them. At its core, networking is about forming professional friendships and relationships. The stronger your connections, the greater the exchange of influence and resources.
Conversations in person are the best way to establish more meaningful connections. Although meeting for the first time online through social media is a great way to find who you might be looking for, connections are best established face-to-face. People not only remember you better when they’ve seen you in person, but they are also able to connect beyond the limitations of digital communication.
For this reason, attending business conferences, conventions, or other professional events could be hugely beneficial for you as it may put you into direct contact with people in your field. Further, relationships you make in your everyday life may also result in promising leads for future business contacts.
Start Early With Those You Know
Networking can be a challenge, but practice makes perfect.
If you don’t have experience in networking with others, then start by networking with those you know. Re-establishing contact with people you’ve already met before is easier and allows you to have more successful conversations. After all, you already sort of know each other and this gives you somewhere to start.
On another note, you should also start networking before you need the network. Waiting until the last minute makes you appear desperate and sends all the wrong signals to those with whom you are trying to connect. Remember, these connections require time to build.
“Unlike transactional networking, a real relationship is forged by professional and personal interest between two people, regular communication and support. This promotes the building of trust, encourages collaboration and exposes an innate willingness to help out. This dynamic is fundamental to business success as it drives knowledge sharing, exposes opportunities and facilitates new introductions further expanding one’s contact network.” remarks Yiannis Gavrielides, founder and CEO of business networking app, Covve.
Set Appropriate Goals
Set goals ahead of time. Having long-term goals is great but, set short-term goals as well. Setting more manageable, achievable goals makes it easier to work towards your larger, long-term goals.
You also need to know who you’re looking for. If you’re trying to start a business, you’ll want to meet potential investors, partners, or customers. Having an idea of who you should network with will help you focus your efforts and not waste your time.
Putting It All Together
Have you ever felt like you’ve built a great relationship with an email address instead of a person? When you are networking with dozens, maybe even hundreds of contacts at a time, it’s easy to become a victim of our own technological advances. So, how do you keep your networking connections meaningful?
The first step is treating your connections like people. The second step is having a networking plan. If you only network once in a while, you will not be successful at building a large and productive network. So, regularly attend networking events to meet new people. Additionally, ask your existing connections to introduce you to other pros that can help you learn and grow.