Networking is about more than just exchanging business cards. Having a great network of contacts can make or break you as a business person, and networking is an ongoing activity, be it online or in person. Social Media platforms thankfully make this quite easy to keep up with what your contacts are doing, as well as being able to engage with them on a regular basis. Here, we discuss how to network successfully to expand your business contacts.
Figure out who your most important contacts are
You should have a selection of ‘important’ business contacts who you make contact with on a regular basis, whatever frequency is best for the nature of your business, be it a few times a year, or a month. This can involve greeting cards at Christmas time, offering to help them out with a current project, or a few words of congratulations when you see they have won an award.
Offer to help your important contacts
If you find business people that you are keen to connect with, find out what you can do to help them and offer it to them. Always be keen to give to a contact before you ask for something. Be generous with your time, as well as your resources and expertise, and you will likely be treated with the same in return when need be.
Keep up with all contacts
As well as networking with what you could regard as your core contacts, you should also be sure to keep up with everyone else who is a contact too, be it through social media or a monthly newsletter. This is just a case of posting news and updates for all to see, keeping everyone informed, and giving them an opportunity to come to you if they are so inclined.
Be relaxed and friendly when networking
When networking, don’t feel as if you have to be pushy in order to sell yourself, this is something that is sure to put people off. See the introduction to an individual as just the start, an opportunity to establish common ground, and exchange details. There is no need to try and get everything there is to gain from an initial meeting. Whether you are meeting someone for the first time online, or in real life at a networking event or seminar, be relaxed and friendly and give the connection some breathing room.
Always follow up
One of the most important things is to undertake follow up communication, be it a phone call or email, after initially meeting someone. The key to networking is not just to see what they can do for you, but to keep you and your business at the forefront of their mind, and for them to stay reminded of what you can do for them. Keep communication relaxed yet professional, and let the relationship build over time. Networking means nurturing the relationships with your contacts, and devoting time into building them into a core of valuable business contacts.