If you’re a small business owner or sales professional, intentional networking is a skill you should learn. To increase sales and grow your business, you’ve got to be able to make new connections.
Here’s an example. You may be sitting next to other individuals at a party who may not seem connected to your industry. You may think it’s not worth your time to talk to them. But when you strike up a conversation, you might find out that they know some other professionals who could be great connections for you.
And that’s the power of networking. It’s also the reason learning how to network is so important.
What is networking?
Think of networking as a way of expanding your business opportunities. It’s the process of developing relationships with other professionals so you can exchange information and ideas and develop mutually beneficial business opportunities.
Networking isn’t just about transactions either. Instead, it’s about creating long-term relationships with other professionals in the business community.
Why Is Networking Important?
Networking’s important because it allows you to connect with other professionals who can provide information, support, and opportunities. Networking also helps individuals who are sales professionals and business owners to build their brands and create connections that can lead to business opportunities.
How To Network Intentionally and Effectively in 3 Easy Steps
Networking is one of the most important things you can do for your career. It’s how you make connections, find jobs, and learn about opportunities. But, especially if you’re new to the idea of building relationships through networking, you may have questions about how to network effectively.
There are many ways to network — including making connections in person, online, and through social media. It’s important to be strategic about it and to focus on building mutually beneficial relationships with people who can help you reach your goals.
Here are three steps you can take now to help you network intentionally and effectively:
1. Define your goals
Before you start networking, you need to know what you want to achieve.
- What are your goals?
- What do you want to get out of networking?
- What kind of job do you want?
- What companies do you want to work for?
Once you know your goals, you can start targeting the right people and organizations to help you achieve them.
2. Build your network
The key to networking effectively is to build a large and diverse network. The more people you know, the more opportunities you’ll have. And don’t think of the connections as simply more contacts on your phone. Your goal — if you hope to be successful as a sales professional or business owner — is mutually beneficial long-term relationships.
You can build those relationships in many ways, and ultimately, grow your network. Start by attending networking events, meeting people online, participating in conferences for your industry, and joining groups and organizations that relate to your industry.
3. Stay connected
The best way to make the most of your networking efforts is to stay connected to the people within the network you’re building. Keep in touch with them regularly and share news and opportunities with them.
This will help you stay top of mind, and they may be more likely to think of you when they have an opportunity to refer someone.
Here are some ideas for how to stay connected intentionally:
- Plan to stay in touch with your connections regularly.
- Send news and updates about yourself and your work.
- Stay connected on social media.
- Connect with your network on LinkedIn.
- Attend industry conferences, events, and other meetings.
- Stay up to date on your industry’s latest news.
- Share your insights and knowledge with your network.
- Keep your network updated on your business.
- Offer to help your network with their businesses.
- Thank the individuals in your network. Let them know you appreciate their referrals and support.
Mistakes to Avoid When Networking
It’s easy to trip up when you first start networking. Here are some tips for taking your first steps and avoiding the pitfalls. These are the mistakes you don’t want to make:
- Failing to Prepare – Networking is not an event. It’s a process. The more you prepare, the more successful you’ll be. Prepare by making a list of people you want to meet, doing your research, and coming up with a game plan.
- Ignoring Your Current Network – Your current network is your best source of referrals and new business opportunities. Don’t forget about them! Stay in touch, stay top of mind, and stay connected.
- Approaching People the Wrong Way – Don’t just walk up to someone and start pitching your business. Take the time to get to know them first. Build a relationship before you try to sell them anything.
- Not Following Up – Networking is all about building relationships. If you don’t follow up with people, you’ll never build those relationships. Follow up with people within 24 hours and be sure to stay in touch.
- Focusing on Yourself – The purpose of networking is to build relationships, not to make a sale. Don’t focus on yourself. Focus on the other person. Ask questions, find out what they’re interested in, and show genuine interest in them.
Where Should I Go for Networking?
There are many different types of networking events. The best way to find events that fit your interests is to ask your friends, colleagues, and other professionals for recommendations. You can also check online directories or event calendars to find networking events in your area.
Some popular types of networking events include:
- Business networking events
- Industry-specific networking events
- Professional development workshops
- Social networking events
- Chamber of commerce events
- Local business events
- Online groups and forums related to your industry
- Trade shows, conventions, and conferences
- Professional organizations and LinkedIn groups
- Coffee shops, bookstores, and other public places where people gather
Who Should I Network With?
Who you should network with largely depends on your goals and interests. However, there are a few types of people that are especially beneficial connections:
- Those who are in a position to help you achieve your goals. This could include other business owners in your field of work, professionals who are in a position of influence, or those who can access resources you need.
- Individuals who can provide you with valuable advice or mentorship. This could include experienced professionals or people who have expertise in an area that you want to learn more about.
- Those who can introduce you to new opportunities. This could include potential clients, employers, or other people who can help you expand your network and connections.
Is There a Return on Investment In Networking?
The short answer is yes! There is definitely a return on investment in networking. The most obvious is finding new customers, but networking can also help you find new employees, partners, and investors. Additionally, networking can help you stay up to date on industry trends and learn about new opportunities.
The amount of return you get on your networking investment depends on how effective your networking is. To get the most benefit, invest time and effort and be strategic about who you network with and what you offer them in return.
The Ultimate Payoff of Intentional Networking
The ultimate payoff for intentional networking is simple: more and better opportunities.
Remember, networking is the process of meeting people and building relationships. When done intentionally, networking provides you with access to more people who can help you achieve your goals.
Better opportunities might come in the form of a job offer, a referral to a potential client, or an introduction to a powerful contact. Whatever the form, the opportunities generated by networking are almost always better than the opportunities you would have otherwise.
Intentional networking takes time and effort, but the payoff is well worth it. If you’re not getting the results you want from your networking, it’s time to start being more intentional about it.
Remember, the best way to start networking is to be intentional. Plan and think about who you want to meet. Then, make a list of ways to meet those people. You can go to industry events, meetups, or even online groups.
When you meet someone, don’t be afraid to ask for a referral. Ask them to introduce you to someone they know who could help you in your career. And always remember to follow up. Let the person know how much you appreciate their time. Also, let them know how you plan to use the referral.
Whether you’re just starting to make professional connections or you’ve been in business a long time, reach out to learn more about how to get intentional with your networking.