Want to know how to be a good networker? Then you’re in the right place.
The sole mission of this article is to motivate you to take the first steps on a challenging journey that will transform your business life.
Within just an 15 minutes of reading, you will learn about ideas and actionable steps to improve your networking skills. You do not have to implement all ideas at once. I encourage you to read through 21 ideas, reflect and develop on each idea, and then try one idea a day. Along the way, you will learn which ideas suit you best.
How To Be a Good Networker
1: Set a clear and achievable networking goals
It is always a good idea to have at least one goal when attending an organized networking event.
Examples of goals you might have are:
- I will talk to at least five different people
- I will introduce myself to anyone who is standing alone looking uncomfortable
- I will collect 10 business cards
Setting networking goals that are right for you and for the occasion. Not only does having a networking goal make it more likely that you will be productive at the event, but later you’ll be able to decide if this particular event is one that you should attend again. If you met people that you want to network with in the future, then you know this is a good event to come back to.
Goal setting will help you stay focused, but remember to track your goals on ‘actionable metrics’. For example, handing out 135 business cards at a conference is a vanity metric, but having 2 calls or a follow-up lunch the day after is an actionable metric, where you can develop a more serious relationship.
List down networking results you aim to obtain this week/month/year and why. The ‘why” is important to make sure you pick up those goals for good reasons. Some questions you may want to ask yourself:
- What are your top 3 networking priorities this week and why
- How many referrals you decide to get this week and why
- What networking events you plan on attending this month and why
- What are creative ways that you can do to achieve your goals
You have to write down your networking goals and put them in your pocket, so that they are clear and unambiguous.
2: Dedicate time to achieve your goals
It is a good start to have clear goals in mind. Now you have to decide how much time and effort you are willing to put in networking each week to achieve your written goals. The amount of time varies for different professions; sales-oriented people may have to spend up to twenty hours a week to generate referrals, while other jobs require much less effort. As a rule of thumb, you should spend minimum of eight hours a week networking.
However, be creative when it comes to networking as you do not have to meet those people at working places; instead, plan to meet them for lunches, at sport events or pop concerts … if appropriate. Schedule the time you will devote to networking each week in advance, or it will never happen.
3: Profile your preferred clients
Clients are generally sophisticated, but there is a certain set of clients you love to be around and do business. Sit down and think about those preferred clients. Develop a written profile of which your ideal customers are. Ask yourself:
- What demographics of those clients. You may group them in traditional demographics (Age, location, sex/gender/race/ethnicity, income) or modern demographics (Interests, passions, skills, beliefs, values), depending on what you aim to achieve.
- What are the traits that make you love to do business with those clients
Working with preferred clients will save you tons of time and increase chances of converting businesses.
4: Resist the urge to arrive late.
It’s almost counter-intuitive, but showing up early at a networking event is a much better strategy than getting there on the later side. As a first attendee, you will notice that it is calmer and quieter, and people won’t have settled into groups yet. It’s easier to find other people who do not have conversation partners yet.
Setting your watch 15 minutes earlier not only helps you do more talks with prospects, but also gives you sufficient time to deal with some minor traffic jams.
5: Give before you get
A cornerstone principle of effective business networking is you always give to others first. Not only will this build the relationship you have with your word-of-mouth marketing team but it will create a solid win-win outcome for everyone you involve. The more active you become in generating referrals for the people in your network, the more they will come to view you as the gatekeeper to some great resources.
Buy some name card carriers and get into the habit of carrying the business cards of the other people in your network wherever you go. Look for opportunities to hand these out in all the different settings you find yourself in.
Send a simple letter to all your current clients with a list of the people in your network. Recommend them as being credible, ethical and professional. Offer to put your own clients in touch with all your team members.
6: Build your networking database
After a little while, it becomes difficult to keep track in your mind who helped you grow your business, what they did and what their own needs are. Don’t try and do that. Instead, set up a database where you can track this information and use it in the future.
Use whatever database or customer relationship management software or other systems you are familiar with to create your own networking database and start recording what’s happening. Include details like:
- Who your satisfied customers are.
- What professionals interact with your customers regularly.
- Who gave you referrals and how they turned out.
- Who has helped you network and what they did.
7: Diversify your contacts
Most of us have a tendency to hang out with others who share our values and goals. From a networking perspective, that’s not such a great thing. Your network will get stronger if you get out there and rub shoulders with people outside your normal circles of activity. Create opportunities to meet strangers, find out what they are working towards and look for opportunities to bring these people inside your circle of contacts. A little diversity is a very good thing in this context.
8: Reconnect with people from your past
You will probably know people who you used to do business with at one time but for one reason or another you no longer interact with on a regular basis. If you reconnect with them, you may be pleasantly surprised to find they will open new doors for your business now. Take time this week to call or e-mail:
- People who worked or lived near you in years gone by.
- Your college friends or acquaintances.
- Work colleagues you haven’t seen in some time.
9: Become a center of influence
If you can become a “rainmaker” for the people you network with, you will attract others who will be eager to take advantage of what you have to offer. Take the time this week to study your top three competitors and note how effective they are in drawing people towards them who want to do more business.
To become a center of influence, you have to be approachable, which basically involves doing these sorts of things:
- Always be ready to engage whenever you attend a networking event of any kind.
- Focus on finding common points of interest with everyone you speak to. They’re always there if you dig deep enough.
- Be engaging and fun to talk with.
- Always wear your nametag and get to know everyone else’s names. And don’t forget to have a good supply of business cards close at hand ready to hand out.
- Be bold – conquer your fears. Talk with anyone and everyone. Don’t make the mistake of being standoffish because of a fear of rejection or feeling of inadequacy. The more you start conversations, the better you will get at it and the more confident you will feel. Take the initiative and start conversations at every opportunity.
10: Become a genuine value-added resource
Don’t just show up at networking events. Aim to add value for the people in your networking group. You do this by building high-quality relationships, which are based on deep connections with the other people in your network. Be someone they can rely on rather than just a superficial contact.
Choose one person from your networking group and ask them:
- What are you trying to accomplish this year?
- What major challenges stand in your way of doing that?
- What could I be doing to help?
- What do you need to be successful?
Then find ways to help make something good happen for that person as they work towards their goals.
11: Become a catalyst for others
In nature, a catalyst is an agent that initiates a chemical reaction of some kind. This is a good analogy for the type of person you want to be within your networking group. Seize the initiative and work together to make good things happen for as many people in your networking group as possible.
So how do you do that in practice? There are no simple 1-2-3 steps involved. Life is a bit more complicated than that. Instead, figure out what the first domino is you need to tap over which will lead to a chain reaction of positive events, and get to work making that domino fall. Create your own luck.
12: Volunteer for things and be visible
Volunteering can be a great way to build your visibility. It can help people get to know you, like you and trust you – all of which then makes it easier for them to recommend you to others. Volunteering also allows you to meet others in your community who share your passions. Volunteering expands the depth and breadth of your network immeasurably.
Note that volunteering in this context is not a recreational activity. You’re doing this to help fulfill a need you’re interested in first and foremost. This is why you look for a cause that aligns with your interests. You then demonstrate your strengths, talents and skills to others in a tangible way. That visibility will generate other benefits, which will subsequently flow back to you.
13: Send thank-you cards to people
Everyone knows sending thank-you notes is a good idea. It only takes a couple of minutes to do. People love the old-fashioned low-tech personally handwritten thank-you notes. They are a very nice touch as people appreciate the time and effort involved. But the real question is that even knowing all these benefits, how many thank-you notes did you personally send out last year?
Networkers don’t just talk about thank-you notes. They actually send them. If you aspire to join the 29 percent of businesses that do networking well, you’d better set up some systems to send out thank-you notes on a consistent basis. Keep it simple:
- Purchase a set of appropriate thank-you notes.
- Make a list of who has gone the extra mile for you lately.
- Take a few minutes each day to send out thank-you cards.
- Ignore the urge to include your business card.
- Thank people every opportunity you get.
It is a simple, but often overlooked, rule of engagement. By smiling, you’ll put your nervous self at ease, and you’ll also come across as warm and inviting to others. Remember to smile before you enter the room, or before you start your next conversation. And if you’re really dreading the event? Check the negative attitude at the door.
15: Get into the habit of following up
Take time to look at how well you’re doing in following up on the referrals you’re receiving from your networking group. If you’re brutally honest, you will probably note some referrals fall between the cracks and never get followed through on. That’s a problem as timely follow-up is the lifeblood of any effective networking group. If you don’t follow up on the leads others have provided, they will have doubts about your ability to follow through on anything you have promised.
Look carefully at the systems you have set up to keep track of the business referrals you receive and what you do with them. There is no one-size-fits-all system here. What’s important is to find something that works for you. Evaluate how well you’re doing at using the system you now have in place. If your system isn’t working, figure out why not and do something about it. Make sure every lead you get is acted promptly and professionally.
While you’re checking your systems, also look at how you keep track of information about your various networking partners. This information needs to be available quickly so you can keep the relationship fresh and focused. Look at how often you update these details.
Everyone is busy and this information will be changing all the time. Make sure you’re up to date in this area as well so you don’t miss any meetings or appointments you have committed to. Whenever you reconnect with networking partners, take the opportunity to refresh and update their details at the same time. This is a good business practice.
16: Get active in social and sports setting
Learn to play golf. Join a bowling league or sign up for a softball team. Do something this week, which aligns with your sporting interests. Organize a regular time you can get together with other people who like doing the same things and make that a “catalyst event” where you can bring new and different people together. Have fun thereby creating greater visibility, which will then lead to credibility and ultimately business transactions. Play ball.
17: Make meal meetings productive
Focus this week on all those meeting where you take your clients out to eat. If you’re smart, you’ll use these as opportunities to grow your network and not merely as a chance to grow your waistline. Meal meetings can be used several ways:
- To further develop and strengthen a business relationship.
- To meet someone who may join your network.
- To introduce a colleague to someone you know.
- To teach something.
Work this week to set up at least three purposeful meal meetings involving at least three people from your network in the next month or so. Make certain everyone knows in advance what is the purpose of each meeting.
18: Ace making a powerful first impression
The business cliché is you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Your assignment this week is to take a long, hard look at what kind of first impression you are projecting to others. Ask: “What message am I sending to those who meet me for the first time? Do I come across as professional and a good resource to know or do I merely come across as someone who is out to sell them something?” On the basis of what you find, you may need to make some changes in your general grooming and choice of clothing.
As you make this evaluation, also spend some time on the body language you typically use. Do you make good eye contact? Do you stand in a welcoming manner or does everything you do send the message you should not be approached? Ask your friends for feedback this week and work out what you need to be doing (or changing) in order to make a solid first impression.
19: Find or form a networking group
Referral networking groups are organizations, which hold regular meetings for the sole purpose of generating business for each other. This is like having salespeople working for you that you don’t even need to pay a commission. Make it a priority this week to check out whether there is a chapter, which meets somewhere, near you and if so, go along and get involved.
20: Join your local Chamber of Commerce
Belonging to a Chamber of Commerce can help you supercharge your networking activities. This week, find out where your nearest Chamber of Commerce is and request membership information. If possible, attend an event or two and see what the fit is like for you. More than likely, there will be a few options available so do your homework and pick a Chamber of Commerce, which has a strong, and active membership base.
Be proactive in expanding the number of people you can network with. And be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get involved. You’ll have to earn the goodwill of the other members before the referrals will start flowing.
21: Sponsor some appropriate events
Event sponsorship is a great way to grow your business. Sponsoring the right event can position your business advantageously, create recognition with key people and make all kinds of good things happen. Take time this week to look for local events you can sponsor.
In all likelihood, you won’t be looking at sponsoring a televised NASCAR race. You’ll probably end up sponsoring an event put on by a local community group, a trade show or something else, which is run by a professional group. These can all be excellent ways to bring more people into your network. Find an event that includes an appropriate level of investment and sponsor it.