5 Ways to Become a Better Networker, and Why It's So Important In Business. This article is about me sharing my own networking experience and the five key techniques I use that I believe will help people become better at networking.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
In business, we are networking all the time without even knowing it. When we go to an event, we are networking. When we have a meeting and hand out a business card, we are networking.
The reason networking is so important is that these days, it's very difficult to do something on your own. We all need assistance in some way and networking is the perfect strategy to achieve a collaborative approach to achieving your objectives.
In any business or venture, there are so many moving parts such as distribution, validation, launch, partnerships and more. So being a good networker can help you "plug the holes" that you cannot fill yourself.
My definition of networking is:
Connecting with people in a way where you can add value to their lives or businesses, and in return, they can assist you with your needs.
To understand how to become better at networking, we first must understand what networking isn't.
Networking is not constantly asking for help from people. Networking is like a dance where the energy must flow back and forth.
Read my definition of networking again. What's one thing you notice? The first part of the definition is to add value to people's lives FIRST. This is key because if you are helping people first, without expecting anything in return, you will be remembered forever.
So, what are the 5 ways to become a better networker? Let's dive in and find out.
Related: Networking Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Always add value first
I've mentioned this already but it's worth repeating. To be great at networking, you need to add value first. This means connecting with people (who you want to add to your network) and offering to help them in some way.
Here are 3 tips to add value first:
Send someone an article that you think will help them. This article may help them with a question that they posted on social media.
Share a useful tool with a contact such as a Chrome extension that saves time or a tool for increased productivity.
Connect a particular person with another one of your contacts and mention that you feel the synergy between them and that you believe they can help each other.
The mission-critical step here is to add value for no particular reason other than wanting to help others.
Related: Effective Networking Requires Mastering These 5 Skills
Make it all about the other person
When you meet someone at a function or a meeting, the person's favorite topic is themselves. Make sure you center the conversation around them and DO NOT make it all about you.
Making it all about the other person is a great way to ensure this person finds you very interesting which can help in the future.
A great tip to use here is to utter 3 very powerful words…… "Tell me about".
Tell me about your business.
Tell me about your weekend.
Tell me about your challenges.
Using "tell me about" is a great way of getting people to talk about themselves.
Follow up with the people you meet
This is one of my favorite networking techniques. Whenever I meet someone who I'd like to add to my network, I always make a point to find them on social media or visit their website and email or message them.
In the email or message, I mention how wonderful it was to meet them, and I thank them for their time and let them know that if they need my help, I'd be honored to assist.
I encourage you to try this approach. Make it all about them and don't expect anything in return.
Related: How to Send a Networking DM on Instagram That Works
Let people speak
When you're at a function and you're engaging in conversation, let people speak. Do not interrupt them and just listen. Nod enthusiastically, look them in the eye and be genuine.
By listening, you'll gain so much knowledge of how you can potentially help them in the future.
End meetings with this question
I have conducted literally hundreds and hundreds of in-person meetings all over the world, in the US in particular. One meeting I had with a high-profile executive has stuck in my mind forever.
At the end of the meeting he said, "Thank you for your time. What other ways can I help you with your business? I'm here to assist in any way I can."
WOW! That question and statement had an impact on me, and I never forgot it. To be a great networker you need to be memorable, it's as simple as that.
So, if you offer to add value, and have the intention to help people without expecting anything in return, what do you think will happen if you reach out to your network and ask for an introduction to someone or even help?
You guessed it, your network will bend over backwards and help you as much as they can.
That's the art of networking, and it's so important in business because collectively, your network's minds and contacts will move your success needle way more than you can on your own.