The thought of creating connections with strangers can be daunting and awkward. Here, business consultant and relationship marketing specialist, Phil Bedford, gives ten top tips for becoming a master networker.
Networking can be a precarious subject. We know that we should be doing it, but it can leave us feeling uncomfortable and unsure of ourselves.
An important thing to remember is that networking is not about trying to close the deal on the first occasion. A networking event acts as a catalyst, or first step on the ladder, to making a sale or developing a resource – both of which rarely occur on first instance.
Importantly, making connections will help you receive business in the future, whereas hard selling at a networking event may warrant few results. This allows you to develop “pipeline” business as well as business for here and now.
It is also crucial to recognise that networking is not just limited to events. It is about who we spend time with everyday in our social landscape and even our own companies. Networking is about building relationships, and this occurs even when we are with people one-on-one.
This can relate directly to business or other areas of our lives. Information and support gained from relationships can make life easier, and it is important to recognise that networking isn’t just exclusively for getting business.
The top ten skills for becoming a master networker
(1) Be helpful
No one builds a relationship by taking, it is always through giving. Becoming a master networker is about asking questions about the other person and seeing how you can help them, professionally and personally. It makes us feel great to help.
(2) Be sincere
You have to really want to help people to build relationships. If they feel manipulated as part of a strategy, then you will go down in flames. If you are sharing what you do as a living from your heart, people will bond with you, but if it is part of a polished sales, pitch people can pick up on this.
(3) Be thankful
When people have helped us, showing gratitude is not only appropriate, it is polite. There is nothing more demotivating than helping someone who does not acknowledge your efforts. By the simple act of not appreciating someone, we could be shutting out a potential client.
(4) Never switch off
You could imagine a small invisible antennae on the head of a master networker which is always looking for opportunity to help or connect. Of course, we need to be aware of what event we are at and whether networking for business is appropriate.
Ultimately, networking is a habit. Becoming a master networker is like building muscle memory in sport. Once you do it enough you hardly even need to think about it.
(5) Listen and learn
If we are talking, then we cannot discover how to help people or what motivates them. All we end up doing is boosting our own ego or pushing our own agenda.
People love to talk about themselves, so becoming a master networker is about guiding another person to do the talking and looks to learn as much as possible to become a positive resource for them.
(6) Trust is key
When we are looking to ask someone to refer us or build a relationship with us, they need to be able to trust us. Doing what we say we are going to, when we say we are going to do it, is fundamental. This includes returning phone calls and emails in an appropriate time whilst acknowledging when we mess up.
We need to dress appropriately, and have the right mannerisms to attract people. Furthermore, having all your marketing collateral such as websites and business cards to back up your physical claim is sound business sense.
(7) Don’t be a drain on energy
You don’t have to be jumping up and down like a clown, just be enthusiastic. People want to be lifted not dragged down.
(8) Be enthusiastic about your business
People buy people, and if we are not enthusiastic about what we do then why should they be?
(9) Track your network
Get a great CRM system that allows you to record dates, times and conversations, and prompts you to follow them up. If the system is manageable, revisiting resources and people will be easier and more efficient.
(10) Follow up
Remember, networking is the start of a relationship, and a relationship means more than one chat. If we do not follow up and do so appropriately then we are not showing ourselves as reliable or interested.
The key to becoming a master networker is to follow up and do so appropriately to every conversation. Try not send sales emails unless they’re specifically requested.
Phil Bedford is a seasoned business owner who has built his career in both the UK and Dubai. He specialises in relationship marketing and is the founder of rebelnetworker.tv. Read the book
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