Key elements to Successful Networking

People do business with people they know, trust and like. Firms do not make decisions, people do. Your professional network can open doors for you that otherwise could not be opened. It is not what you know, it is who you know!

Proper networking occurs when there is an understanding that everyone in the room has equal value. Networking is about people enjoying other people, communicating passions and connecting with others who share those passions. You should focus on listening, figuring out what others need and connecting them with people you think can help. Personal gain should not be high up on your list. The most successful networkers build genuine relationships and give more than they receive.

To help you become more successful at networking, here are some guidelines to assist you at your next networking event: 

Start networking early
Experienced networkers will tell you that the earlier you start in your career, the more value you get out of your relationships. When you are young and you network with no hidden motive, you can begin to build relationships and a reputation for being generous rather than selfish. 

Network with people you know
Start networking with people you know. You will be more relaxed and can learn from the experience before expanding to their connections and strangers. Using a referral’s name when you contact someone you do not know can be very helpful in breaking the ice. 

Do not network to sell
Networking is all about relationship building, not selling. Focus on keeping conversations fun and informal – you do not need to do the hard sell within minutes of meeting a person. Your objective should be to get the conversation started. People are more likely to do business with people who they enjoy being around. If the potential sale comes across your way, be ready. Prepare for this before the event by creating short lists of things to say and lead the conversation. 

Have a networking plan
Before you attend any networking event, identify which skill sets and connections you can introduce to other people. Prepare and plan what you want to talk about, particularly how you may be able to help other people, either now or in the future. Do research on people and firms, and prepare a list of questions that is applicable to your audience. 

Avoid taking over the conversation
Some people may tend to deviate from the networking plan when they feel uncomfortable. It is important to remember that successful networkers are good at making other people feel special. Make eye contact when talking to people, repeat their name and listen to what they have to say. It is better to have a conversation than only you talking. 

Follow up
If you told someone you would get in touch with them, do it and reaffirm your intent to assist in any way you can. Build a reputation as someone who delivers on their promises and is persistent. If you have had a great exchange, ask your conversation partner what the best way to stay in touch is. Always remember that networking is where the conversation begins, not ends.

Networking is more a process of giving than taking. When you believe that the true value of networking lies in helping others and you do your part, you will soon reap the rewards of a strong network. Always do you part as you will never know when someone will return the favour.

For more information contact Francois Pretorius at francois@succeedgroup.co.za

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein.