You can be on Entrepreneur’s cover!

Effective Networking: The Difference Between Access, Opportunity and Being a Part of the Noise Follow these three networking practices to level up your networking game.

By Mike Carpenter

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Whether it's scheduling a virtual meeting on Zoom, forming a connection on LinkedIn, meeting in person for a coffee, or attending events — effective networking is essential for entrepreneurs and is responsible for the success of 78% of startups. However, despite how accessible networking has become today, it can be difficult to execute effectively for even the most well-versed business people.

One common idea is that networking can often be daunting, especially for introverted entrepreneurs. Many also fear the process is too time-consuming and draining for both groups involved. I'd argue that navigating the difference between access and opportunity or being part of the noise, is the biggest obstacle many investors take on, especially when in the early stages of their careers.

Related: Networking 101 For Introverts: Tips and Tricks to Help You Confidently Connect With Others

I've outlined a few best practices you can use to level up networking skills and form valuable long-term relationships, and it all starts with putting meaning behind the action.

1. Be prepared and establish what you want to learn

The networking process is a massive information highway — so it's essential to, first and foremost, reflect on where you want to go with your business and determine what you need to know to get there. In other words, entrepreneurs should approach networking with a focus on learning. Once you've established what you want to learn, spend time identifying who you need to know and outline an approach for how you could contact them. For example, assess where there's an overlap in careers, education or expertise, location and areas of interest as a starting point for relationship building.

At the same time, entrepreneurs should also be prepared with what they bring. Whether it is an investor, potential partner, or prospective team member, I encourage you to be motivated to form intentional connections where the value of knowledge and resource sharing is mutually beneficial.

Related: 11 Networking Tips When You're Crunched for Time

2. Be realistic and manage your expectations

Another part of effective networking is managing expectations. No matter the channel or mode, entrepreneurs should understand what potential opportunities a particular engagement or experience may afford and align their expectations accordingly. For example, if you're reaching out for the first time or after years of not being in touch, there likely will not be an immediate or urgent response. It may take time to rebuild the connection, so keep in mind patience as a main part of the process.

On the other hand, if you're attending larger events, there may be an opportunity to establish several valuable connections. Even if it is a new relationship being formed, building that foundation at events can be a great starting point for future conversations. Things do not always go as planned, so being flexible is also important.

Related: How Networking Is Necessary for Effective Entrepreneurship

3. Be consistent in maintaining relationships

Networking should be an investment entrepreneurs make into creating a relationship and maintaining it in the long run. A key part of this is reframing the outlook of networking as being solely transactional, as there will be minimal value to this. Investors are inundated with inquiries and pitches, so if your approach is to seek an immediate exchange, it will only end up amongst the noise.

Instead, I suggest prioritizing staying up to date with what the potential investor is doing and approaching with thoughtful knowledge and care. This means striking a balance between consistency and over-communication. While checking in is crucial to maintaining those relationships, be mindful of when regularly reaching out becomes overbearing for the person on the other side. Remind yourself that real relationships are formed when planning and purpose are at the forefront as opposed to short-term wins.

Effective networking allows entrepreneurs to access new opportunities and introductions that otherwise would not have been available. Without investing the time and thought to form valuable relationships with investors, partners, or prospects who align with their business goals, you risk ending up amongst the noise.

Mike Carpenter

Chairman, Founder & CEO of XFactor.io

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Business News

A Non-Profit Newspaper Published a Column Criticizing Facebook. Then Meta Blocked All of Its Posts.

Facebook's communications chief said that the posts were removed because of "a mistaken security issue."

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

Walmart Shoppers May Be Eligible for $500 After Settlement

Walmart shoppers who purchased weighted goods or bagged citrus in the U.S. or Puerto Rico from late 2018 through early 2024 might be eligible for a share of a $45 million settlement.

Business News

Elon Musk Reveals When Tesla Will Release Its First Robotaxi

Tesla's CEO says the fully autonomous Tesla taxi is arriving soon — in 122 days.

Business News

Total Solar Eclipse 2024 Live Feed: Where, When and How to Watch the 2024 Eclipse

Here's what to know about the total eclipse 2024 and a live stream from NASA.

Business News

OpenAI Reportedly Used More Than a Million Hours of YouTube Videos to Train Its Latest AI Model

YouTube CEO Neal Mohan said last week that if OpenAI used YouTube videos to train text-to-video generator Sora, that would be a "clear violation" of the terms of use.