The ability to network is an important business skill but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. In fact, it’s fairly common to feel a bit shy at networking events. However, the more you improve your networking, the more your business will benefit.
Like any other skill, networking skills can be developed over time once you are willing to learn. The most important thing is to get started by working on your confidence and focusing on what you want to achieve.
Set out below are ten tips to help you on your way.
Ten tips to improve business networking skills
- Attend relevant business and social events.
- Do your homework before events. A bit of research on the theme or speakers will often provide useful conversation starters.
- Dress appropriately and make sure that your clothing is comfortable. This will help you feel more confident when meeting new people.
- Practice how you describe your business and what you do. The more comfortable you are with your ‘elevator pitch’, the more confident you will feel when new contacts ask you what you do.
- When you are introduced to a new person, repeat their name aloud as this will help you to remember it.
- Ask questions and develop your listening skills. This helps show you are genuinely interested in the person you are speaking to.
- Follow up new introductions promptly.
- Avoid making promises you don’t intend to keep. For example, don’t say, ‘I’ll call you next week’ if you know you won’t call.
- Volunteer for committees and/or projects as this can be a good way to build relationships and improve your communication skills.
- Leverage your online networks. Participating in online discussions and groups, such as LinkedIn discussions or groups, can be a good way to keep an eye on industry developments.
Too shy to network?
Even if you are shy, you can become a good networker by focusing on what you want to achieve. Make a list of the reasons why you want to improve your networking as this will help you to focus. These reasons may include a wish to:
- Strengthen your existing business relationships and develop new contacts.
- Improve confidence and enhance communication skills
- Raise your profile and stimulate interest in your business
- Generate new ideas — a valuable benefit for owner-managers and sole traders.
- Keep up to date with industry news and developments which, in turn, can alert you to emerging business opportunities or provide an early warning of potential trouble ahead, for example that a key customer or supplier may be in trouble.
As with most things in life, what you get out of networking depends on what you put in. In my experience, the most effective networkers see tangible results on their bottom line through increased referrals and new contacts. In today’s connected business world, perhaps the real question is not should you improve your networking but can you afford not to?
Are you a business owner or manager who wants to improve efficiency and effectiveness? Get in touch now. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring our office on 01 905 9436.