Networking has almost become a dirty word. It can convey the idea of one person using another person to get ahead. However we all know that developing our network is important in business, whether it be finding new customer markets, suppliers, or business partners.
So how can we
network effectively and with a clear conscience? Here are 5 top tips:
1. Remember that networking is a two way streetIf you hope to benefit from your extensive network, you must also be prepared to be of benefit to somebody else. Freely you have received, freely give. Firstly, it is good practice. Secondly, those who are of benefit to others are likely to have the largest and deepest networks. These are the people that others want to make an effort to talk to at business functions, parties and the like.
2. Be open-mindedFollowing on from the above, it is important to be open-minded and open to various people. There is no point in being a snob when it comes to networking. You can never really immediately tell who is going to be useful to you in the future.
It is very short sighted to ignore people because they do not work in your industry sector, or do not have the level of expertise you require. In 5 years time they could be the CEO of a company whose business you are hankering to have. Even if they are not, it is important to think that they might be.
It often isn’t who you know, who you know’s friend that can unlock a world of potential for you.
3. Network with a purposeAt the same time, it is a good idea to have a purpose in mind when you attend a networking function. Feel free to let everyone you know about it as well. Are you starting a new business venture? Let people know. Are you looking for a new Managing Director for your company? Are you exporting for the first time internationally? Are you looking for a new manufacturer for your product? Tell people about it. Someone is bound to know of someone who can help you further (see #2 above).
4. Don’t over-think itRemember that all networking is, is meeting people and dare I say it, making friends. It is impossible to fail at this (unless of course, you never speak to anybody). Enjoy the process and the benefits that it can bring.
5. Follow up!You have probably collected a great many business cards from attending networking events. We all have. Networking, however, is not so much about attending events, but about what you do afterwards.
Remember to call the people that you promised to call, make connections that you promised to make etc. This way your network can grow from a collection of seeds into a wonderful and interconnected vine.