One of the most important things you can do in business is to network. It’s important to have an offline as well as online network and the key is to maximize both tools. The principles of offline and online networking, stripping away the technology, are basically the same. Many people understand business networking as selling yourself, your business or product, but that is not the case. Successful networking is all about building sincere, long lasting and mutually beneficial relationships based on generosity. The principles and techniques of business networking are mostly common sense and many of the behavioural principles that generally apply to relationships also apply to business. 

    1. Take your networking seriously

Developing and managing your business network takes a lot of planning and commitment. As with everything else, the more we practice the more we can develop our skills. Networking is about building trust and relationships, be genuine and authentic!

    1. Decide what your goals are and create a plan

Ask yourself some questions: What’s the purpose of this meeting? Are you looking for new prospects? Are you seeing collaboration or a partnership? Or are you simply out to create awareness for your services or products? Be specific and consistent.Visit different groups and events and get a feeling of the dynamics. Is this the right crowd for you? Do the people sound supportive of one another?

    1. Become a volunteer in an organisation you like

It’s a great way to stay visible and also give back to the groups that have helped you.
Ask open questions. This means asking questions starting with Who, What, Where, When? Questions that cannot be answered with a simple Yes or No. This opens up the discussion and shows the others that you have a genuine interest in them.

    1. Be a valuable resource for others

A good strategy for successful business networking is to help others. Ask how you can be of assistance: What can I do for you? Keep up the good work, genuinely help others and you will be known as a strong resource. People will remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, contacts etc. This will keep you visible for them.

    1. Be clear on what it is you need and don’t be afraid of asking for help

So when you get the question “what can I do for you?”, be prepared with an answer. And remember there is an incentive for helping others: It actually makes people feel happier.

    1. Take action and don’t forget to say THANK YOU!

When you are given a referral, follow up quickly. Very important don’t forget to thank the person giving you the referral. You can also tell them how it went. Remember that your actions and your behaviour determine future referrals. Be respectful and honour your business network and you will create a priceless investment in the continuing growth of your career or business.