It will come as no surprise that many business transactions now take place during impromptu meetings. The saying, "it is not what you know, but who you know" still rings true, and it is essential you make the most of your own personal network.
These 4 tips will ensure you are capitalising on every networking opportunity:
1. Seek out warm introductions
Don't be afraid to ask a colleague or close friend for a hand in getting introduced to a potential customer or client. A warm introduction can often be more successful than a cold one, primarily because a referral infers a recommendation. It is equally as important to ensure these introductions are not only happening in the online world but in the real world - meeting someone in person versus meeting their virtual identity often results in a different (and more productive) exchange.
2. Converse, rather than sell
It can be tempting to immediately engage in a sales pitch, particularly if this is the underlying purpose of your networking. However, this can do more harm than good. It is essential to build rapport first, so enter the engagement with the intention of conversing rather than selling. You should view networking as an information-gathering exercise.
3. Follow up with a purpose
The follow up from the meeting is equally as important as the meeting itself. Make purposeful contact with your new acquaintance by providing them with valuable information - it might be a link to an article you think they may be interested in, or a referral to someone else within your network.
4. Always carry a business card
You never want to be caught short without a business card. Opportunities can present themselves at the most unlikely times, so be sure to have your contact details on you at all times.
Remember, an effective network is not so much about quantity, as quality of connections. Ultimately, the key to networking successfully is to add value to new contacts, before you expect something in return so be generous with information sharing.