Good networking skills can open doors of opportunity that would have otherwise remained shut. It can also help you learn more about your field and industry than you could have discovered on your own, as well as putting you in touch with people who can help you succeed. If you are looking to give your networking skills a boost, here are the top ten tips for successful networking.
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1. Have a Plan
As the old saying goes, "Failing to plan is planning to fail." You need to know what you want to achieve to know whom to network. Having personal objective or business plan will help you choose the right events and right people to associate.
2. Network Both Online and Offline
LinkedIn and other social media channels can make it possible for you to meet people you otherwise wouldn't have connected with in person. Have a professional, well-designed social media presence that is regularly updated so potential prospects and business partners can find out and connect with you with ease. At the same time, online networking should never take the place of offline networking. Sometimes the best way to engage with others is to get up from your desk and attend a local conference or expo.
3. Choose the Right Events
Don't feel you have to attend every single industry-related event in or even outside your local area. Choose your networking venues with care, or they can distract you from other important aspects of your work. Continually refer to your business plan when choosing which events to attend to ensure that the events you go to aren't a waste of your time.
4. Be Well-Mannered
There's that saying that people won't always remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel. Make a good first impression by treating everyone you come across with kindness and respect, including people with whom you have no intention of networking or doing business with. Show up to events on time or even a bit early and be willing to help out at the event should the need arise. Your presentation is also important as it shows respect for others attending the event in question. Also, be sure to dress appropriately, avoiding overly casual attire, stained clothes or a sloppy demeanor.
5. Be Conversational
Show an interest in the people you talk with by asking open-ended questions. Listen carefully to what people have to say to get to know them better. Never make yourself the center of attention in a conversation by offering a lengthy sales pitch to people whom you think may be potential clients. People who attend industry conferences and conventions don't want a sales pitch; they want to get to know other people. If you are asked about your work, have a powerful, yet short, description ready to tell people about what you do and why you do it. After you're done explaining your work, take the focus off yourself and ask others about their work, products, services, etc.
6. Stay in Touch
Don't waste your networking time by forgetting about people you met. Contact people periodically via email, text and/or phone. Don't use these contact opportunities to pitch your products; instead, ask people about their lives and/or provide information that you know they would find to be helpful and useful. Offer your help should they need it. Lastly, keep track of your contacts in a CRM database.
7. Be Willing to Give Before Getting
Networking is about two-way relationships. This means that you need to be willing to give before getting something out of the relationship. Be willing to lend a hand if someone in your network is in need of assistance that you can provide. Helping people in your network doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming; sometimes just a listening ear or an offer to introduce someone in your network to someone else can make a big difference.
8. Hold Yourself to a High Standard of Integrity
Trust is the foundation of any long-term relationship. Be trustworthy by keeping your word and being honest in all your business dealings. If you have a high standard of integrity, word will get around, and people will want to not only meet you but also get to know you better.
9. Don't Give Up
Not all your networking ventures will be successful. Sometimes, the people you want to meet and work with won't want to build a business relationship with you. Don't let setbacks discourage you; move on to discover those who are interested in networking with you.
10. Don't get Complacent
Networking is something that should be done on an ongoing basis. Continue to not only reach out to people in your existing network, but also expand your network to include new people you meet.
If you want to develop strong professional relationships with people in your industry, follow the tips outlined above. They are tried and proven ways to network successfully with other people no matter where you live or what you do for a living.