It's a new year and you want to get out there and grow your business right? As one of the most powerful tools at your disposal, networking is a crucial skill for all professionals. Increase the success and productivity of your networking opportunities with these six easy steps.
1. Know what you're looking for
Increase your networking productivity by regularly taking the time to do your homework. If you're on your way to a big business event, be sure to read up on the people who will be there and visualise the potential opportunities that may arise. Get in touch with the event organiser if you need more information and think about what you'd like to get out of the occasion. Keep your objectives in the back of your mind throughout and capitalise on them when you can while remaining polite, chatty and friendly with all guests.
2. Be generous
The main secret to successful networking is being as willing to give as you are to receive. When you meet a new business contact for the first time, you want to be thinking about what you can do for them as well as what they might be able to do for you. If you're able to put someone in touch with the perfect person or solve a problem for them, you're far more likely to be on the receiving end of help in the future.
3. Write a friendly follow-up
Once you've made a connection, you need to ensure it doesn't flicker and fade away. The best way to do this is to get in touch when you're back in the office. Follow up with a brief, friendly email and seek out your new contact on sites such as LinkedIn (and consider upgrading from your free account so that you gain access to features such as InMail). If you're continuing a conversation, suggest a coffee or meeting. Otherwise, simply stay in touch by sharing mutually interesting news and career updates.
4. Be considerate
Social media sites make it much easier to mingle and network remotely, but they can also blur boundaries and encourage people to overstep the line between professional and personal. Be sure to always behave appropriately when interacting with potential contacts online and be wary of mixing the personal and professional.
5. Know when hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.
One of the most common mistakes that professionals make when networking face-to-face is to become too pushy, or to not respect the environment in which the contact with a prospect is made. Many sales people become entirely focused on making a sale, engaging in ‘sales tunnel vision'. This is a good thing if handled professionally and you can maintain your ‘sales peripheral vision' – the vision that tells you when a prospect is bored, simply wants to move on to other conversations, or is more interested in mingling. Take the time to contemplate the situation, and after making a professional approach consider if the conversation should be continued at another time by contacting the prospect the following day and arranging another meeting. See point 3 (above).
6. Maintain a professional aura
To ensure your new connections take you seriously, you need to be able to present yourself in a professional manner. This means more than simply looking the part. It also means presenting a professional face for you and your business. The services of a professional secretarial service, the use of a Virtual Office or utilising a Serviced Office are excellent ways to enjoy all of the benefits of a well-equipped and modern business space without the necessity of a large upfront payment. Also, making use of meeting rooms when you need them in a professional office can pay dividends.