If you own a business or are helping build one, you're going to work hard to get the word out to bring in clients, business, and line up prospective clients. This can be done by various marketing methods such as mail outs, radio ads, print ads, online marketing ... or by business networking.
Although those methods are still used, networking has become more valuable as it's more personal and multiplies your power in reaching out to other people. Networking is not passive, so it’s not easily discarded, tuned out, or turned off.
Are you ready to upgrade your networking skills? Let's take a look at some do's and don'ts as well as 21 of the most essential tips you should have up your sleeve when you are a newbie in networking.
Why is business networking necessary
Networking is useful for a bunch of reasons: interacting with potential clients, making connections in your industry, the potential for beneficial business deals or partnerships, and more than that too!
Many people treat networking purely as a way to gain clients. And that can happen - but it happens as a result of you interacting with potential clients, talking about their problems, maybe giving them some advice, and generally building a reputation and relationship. Finding clients shouldn't be your main priority, unless you want to look like a car salesman and annoy folks.
Making connections in your industry and finding potential business partners are opportunities which are just as big, if not bigger, than finding new clients. These are the people who face the same challenges as you, and who are often trying to achieve similar goals. Everyone can share information and advice, and everyone benefits greatly from the new knowledge.
There's tons of other benefits - we've got a list of them below. Keep reading and you'll also find our monster list of networking tips below.
Benefits of networking
Though marketing your business is the main purpose of networking, it's not the only benefit. There are numerous reasons why successful business people practice networking regularly. Here are some of the main benefits for you to take a look at.
As you can see, there are a number of benefits to networking, more than just marketing yourself or your business.
Common business networking mistakes
When you first start networking with others, it's easy to get confused by networking being recommended as one of the marketing methods so you might think it's all about self-promotion.
Boy, is that wrong! Networking is a two-way street. Once you learn to interact in a way that benefits others, you will start to reap the rewards of networking.
The whole idea behind networking is to build relationships, get your name, and your business noticed by other people. These common mistakes will not get you the positive results that you’re looking for. Even worse, they can result in you losing your whole reputation, so keep them in mind when you’re connecting with other folks.
Only expecting to find clients
As mentioned earlier, networking is not just about marketing. If you rush into pushing your business you’re going to turn most folks off.
So, spend some time getting to know each other. It’s kind of like dating, you wouldn’t go out with somebody who was a total stranger, would you?
Networking is not like Tinder, so don’t act like you’re swiping left or right. Approach networking like you're searching for “the one and only.”
Using business cards poorly
If you simply hand out your business cards, then you’re not actually networking. Remember the main purpose of networking is building relationships.
Take time to make a connection with the person you approach, then ask them for their card. If they give you one, you now have a method to follow up with them. On the plus side, I’ve never had anybody not ask for my card in return.
The flip-flop to passing out too many business cards is not having any with you. How can you give the other person your important information when you can’t hand them a card? You can’t.
On top of that, you don’t come off as a professional. One of the most embarrassing things that can happen is having to write your info on a piece of paper or a napkin.
Have you double checked your business cards when you received them or did you just start passing them out? I haven’t been guilty of handing out incorrect business cards (just not having any on me), but I did hear the story of a guy who had the wrong web address on his card.
You don’t want somebody going to a “naughty” site, just because it’s spelled a bit differently than yours, do you? Nope, I didn’t think so.
Presenting sales pitches
I heard long ago, “Nobody likes a salesman, like the salesman." One of the worst things you can do at a networking event is to do a hard sale and pitch your product or a service straight away.
Noone likes to be "sold to", so don't expect to yield some great connections when all you do is talk about what a great product you have and why one should buy it.
Forget all the sales pitches and guidelines - networking is the last place to use those skills at.
Using follow-ups poorly
If you want to be remembered, there's no better way to do so than following up. Thanking the person for their time opens the doorway for building a sustainable business relationship, especially if you compliment them on something that is relevant or share some thoughts on something they had previously shared with you on the event. Following up can lead to a payoff for you when you least expect it.
On the other hand, forgetting to follow up or thank the person is one of the most disrespectful things you could do and it will break all the bridges you could have built before. If you don't follow up, the connection you made is as good as nothing.
Judging and labeling people
Have you ever had somebody leave you feeling that they believe that you are less important than they are? I have and I don’t like the feeling. I don’t like being judged or labeled either, especially by people that don’t know me.
On the other hand, I like to be respected and well thought of, so I try to leave the other folks feeling that way too. Keep an open mind about other people and you may be surprised with you end up connecting with. Don't expect to connect with the "Cubans" and "Buffets" of the industry either. Remember, everyone matters.
Being too vague or lying to make a better impression
On one hand, you don’t want to talk too long about yourself, but on the other hand, you should share details about you and what you do. How else is the other person going to get an idea of who you are?
At the same time, make sure that you be accurate about yourself and your business. Be you. Don’t lie to make things appear better than they are. You’ll eventually get caught in that.
So, you’re going to a networking event. Are you prepared? That might sound odd, what’s there to prepare for? Well, what are you hoping to achieve by networking? Are you wanting to obtain advice, gain insight in the industry, make connections, or promote your business?
All those require some preparation.
If it’s advice you’re hoping to get, what do you need advice on or about. Put some questions on paper, mull them over, so that you know what to ask when you do.
Looking for insight into the industry? Detailing what you want to learn is helpful. Look over some trade publications or online sites, so you know what to ask about. Proper preparations are the basis for avoiding uncomfortable silent moments and other embarrassing occasions.
Being self-centered or bashing competitors
I recently watched a TV show that featured a bartender that was very self-centered and put down others. It was almost too painful to watch, as the guy really turned me off. Get what I’m saying?
Remember, networking is about the other “guy,” the person that you’re talking to. He, or she, doesn’t want to hear all about you, or how X and Y’s product is junk. Nope, they want you to take an interest in them. If you do that, then you’re going move closer to the finish line as a winner.
So, the main thing to remember, “Networking is not for selling.” In fact, it’s about making connections, gathering information, and even sharing your knowledge to help others. Invest wisely in networking and you will be rewarded.
21 Tips for successful networking
We’ve covered the benefits of networking and the networking mistakes. We’ve learned a bunch about networking and we want you to avoid the mistakes we’ve made, enjoy our successes and gain from your networking experience.
So, there’s some more good stuff for your “Networking Toolbox.” Don’t forget to open it every now and then so that you can review the great tools that you have at your disposal.
Now that you are equipped, let's take a look at some of the places that can open up networking opportunities for you.
The best places for business networking
Okay, this one’s gonna be tough because the best places for business networking is . . . . . . . everywhere. Well, not actually everywhere, but it’s not just an event, or events, that you attend. It’s anytime, and any place, that you can strike up a conversation with somebody and talk about them, and then, if there’s time, talk about you.
Thing is, you never know when you’re going to meet somebody that you really connect with. Who know’s, that person that you’ve been chatting with online might end up becoming a great resource in helping you grow your business.
Heck, it might even be the person that you stand in line with for hours, trying to get those hard to obtain tickets to the greatest concert ever. See what I mean? There are unlimited places to network, but here’s some that have proven to be productive.
Now that your networking toolbox is equipped with some of the best tips, you are all set to go and conquer the business world. Avoid the common mistakes, strike up conversations in different events and start building a great strong network!