It’s a myth that networking is all about social skills. While having charisma and an engaging personality certainly helps, the best networkers are efficient “connectors.” They establish connections between people and organizations using their existing relationship capital, as well as tools that have much more to do with practicality than sociability. In other words, learning how to network is as much an exercise in geometry as it is in psychology.
Taking both the practical and social into account, here are four tips for networking made easy:
1. Create a Targeted Prospect List
Showing up at a networking happy hour and passing out a stack of business cards willy-nilly just won’t cut it. Save time and effort by first doing your homework to create a targeted list of people and organizations you’d like to connect with. Who are the big players in your industry or community? Who knows who? Networking is made easy with tools like RelSci’s relationship capital software, which will help you uncover connections and shortcut the research. Regardless of how you accomplish it, the goal is to get a targeted prospect list before you start your business networking.
2. Don’t Fumble the First Impression
First impressions do matter, so polish up your game. Whether your first point of contact with someone is an email, call, or in-person meeting, you want it to be positive. Numerous studies show that facial expressions, voices, clothes, and handshakes will be judged and evaluated within milliseconds, so remember that the little things do count. Make sure you are prepared and professional in all business networking environments.
3. Offer Reciprocity
Knowing how to network efficiently involves approaching an interaction with a reciprocal mindset. Your prospective investors or clients are looking for value as much as you are, which goes back to the “geometry” of networking. What’s the angle where both you and a prospect would benefit? What can you offer them that would help establish trust? Even a gesture as small as sending an email with an interesting article will work to build mutual value.
4. Follow Up
Any list of networking tips will include the all-important follow up. Be a (wo)man of your word and send anything you promised to a new contact by the time you said you would. Or simply give them a call to say hello if a few weeks have passed and you haven’t heard from them when you were supposed to. Consistent communication is incredibly important for networking and relationship building.
There are plenty more tips on how to network, but as long as you continually commit to learning the best ways (both social and practical) to be a good connector, you’ll have success in business.