Networking 101: Tips for developing your networking skills and growing your business circle
You know the saying: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know that matters. When it comes to life in business, who you know plays a vital role in the resources, growth and connections you can generate. And how do you get to know people? Through a skill called networking.
No matter who you are or what your role is in the business, networking is an important skill to have. But while networking comes naturally to some, it can definitely be a challenge for others. Networking skills aren’t just something you’re born with — they’re something you can learn and grow. By developing your networking skills, you can continue to expand your business circle, which provides more resources and opportunities. Here is how to grow your circle.
1. Study before networking
If you’re planning on going to a networking event or situation, the most valuable thing you can do is study. Just like with a test in school, studying will help grow your networking skills. For instance, if you go to an event and are able to obtain the registration list of possible attendees, see what you can study beforehand to feel better prepared. Learn as much as you can about the people attending, the business they represent, and the products or services they provide. Whenever possible, take advantage of as much information you can gain before the networking opportunity arises.
2. Prepare questions
If you are someone who feels awkward or uncomfortable when networking, don’t worry. Something that can combat your nerves is to prepare yourself with questions. Networking revolves around intentional conversation, which includes questions. Instead of worrying about coming up with questions on the spot, prepare some beforehand and keep them top of mind. Then, whenever there is an awkward pause, use your prepared questions to break the ice. The conversation will keep flowing and you will feel confident as a top networker in your circle.
3. Practice active listening
Of course, once you ask a question, then comes the challenging part — listening. No matter who you are, human beings tend to speak first and listen second. When someone talks to us, we spend half the time preparing our own answer in the back of our minds, rather than actually registering what they say. Instead, become a better networker and grow your circle by practicing active listening throughout the conversation. Then once you respond, you can utilize important details from the person’s comment to show them you cared enough to listen and actively engage in the conversation.
4. Offer solutions
What’s the best way to grow your circle of networking relationships? Offer solutions for other people’s problems. Whenever possible throughout the conversation, see how you can offer a solution to help the person you’re talking to. Depending on the business and its products or services, consider collaborating together to help meet each other’s needs. A solution can mean a variety of different things, from emailing a helpful article to someone, to connecting them with another business professional, to even collaborating on an idea or event together. When you offer solutions to others, they will offer solutions in return, helping to enhance your business and grow your networking circle.
5. Don’t forget the followup
As a professional, you probably already know this popular saying: The fortune is in the followup. When it comes to networking, this could not be more true. The most critical step of every networking relationship is to followup with the person you spoke with. For instance, if you offer someone a solution, be sure to actually provide the solution to them in the followup. Even if you have a simple conversation with someone, send an intentional note thanking them for their time and sharing your excitement for the relationship in the future. When you followup, you show that you care about the relationship, and strengthen each connection you make. Networking is one of the most valuable and important skills to have when it comes to promoting your business and expanding your brand. Fortunately, anyone can learn how to network and grow their circle. Use these tips the next time you find yourself in a networking situation, and watch your business grow because of it.
This article was originally published on the Minuteman Press International blog, reprinted with permission, and republished in the October 2019 issue of PrintAction, now available online.
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