Business networking is a great way to get introduced to your future customers, partners, suppliers and employees. It’s a low-cost method of developing sales leads based on personal referrals and introductions. This typically takes place at meetings, events and via social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. Understanding the networking basics will help you to connect with decision-makers who might otherwise be difficult to engage via other methods like cold calling.
In this article, we’ll share with you networking basics and 25 tips from small business networking experts that will help you take your networking to the next level.
Networking Basics – Understand the Value
Most people invest time in business networking with a goal in mind, whether this is to generate leads, referrals, exposure or new contacts.
That said, you should have a genuine interest in meeting other people and working out how you can be of help to them. If you arrive in the new network with the mindset of “What’s in it for me?” and start selling yourself rather than building new relationships, you will only be likely to conclude that it has been a complete waste of time.
Marc Prosser, FitSmallBusiness
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Top 5 Networking Basics Principles
To be successful at business networking you need to get into the right mindset you’ll be on track to succeed if you apply the following 5 networking basics principles:
1. Be Generous
While you may be tempted to just target people you normally wouldn’t have access to, that’s a mistake. Instead, make it your goal to be open, friendly and honest. Generosity is an attractive quality and it’s something special that people will remember about you.
2. Don’t Force The Pace
Seasoned networkers can smell desperation and someone who is obviously just out to help themselves is singularly unattractive. Networking with no apparent ulterior motive will help you build long-term relationships and a reputation for being a valuable contact rather than a self-serving leech.
3. Understand Your Value
Be clear about what talents, strengths and business contacts you can bring to the table that might be of potential value to the people that you are networking with. Be clear about how you are going to introduce yourself, what you want to talk about and how you may be able to help the people you meet.
4. Treat Everyone as Important
Make it your mission to discover the value in each person you talk to. Ask questions and listen with interest. Don’t make the mistake of discounting people too soon due to their job titles. Remember that they may be a networking guru and capable of introducing you to the people that you really need to know.
5. Keep Your Commitments
If you exchange business cards and agree to introduce someone you have met to someone you know, make it a priority to follow through. You have to be prepared to give before you can realistically expect anything in return.
20 More Tips from Small Business Networking Experts
Now we have clear networking basics principles and the right mindset in place, let’s hear from the experts. I reached out into one of my business networks to ask for advice on networking basics from a number of successful small business leaders who are also seasoned and experienced business networkers.
By responding the way they did, they all recognized the first networking basics principle – “Be Generous” – and stepped forward to help without expecting anything in return.
This is what they had to say:
Over to You
Business networking is a great way to get introduced to your future customers, partners, suppliers, and employees. Understanding networking basics principles is a great place to start.
Most people invest time in business networking with a goal in mind, whether this is to generate leads, referrals, exposure or new contacts. That said, you should have a genuine interest in meeting other people and working out how you can be of help to them.
I recommend following the networking basics tips provided by the pros as this will help you to make the best use of your networking time. Be sure to add your own business networking basics tips in the comment section below!