You know the saying: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know that matters.” When it comes to life in business, who you know plays a vital role in the resources, growth and connections you can generate. And how do you get to know people? Through a skill called networking.
No matter who you are or what your role is in business, networking is an important skill to have. But while networking comes naturally to some, it can definitely be a challenge for others. However, networking skills aren’t just something you’re born with—they’re something you can learn and grow. By developing your networking skills, you can continue to expand your business circle, which provides more resources and opportunities. Here’s how to grow your circle.
1. Study before networking.
If you’re planning on going to a networking event or situation, the most valuable thing you can do is study. Just like with a test in school, studying will help grow your networking skills. For instance, if you go into a networking event and can have a list of possible attendees, see what you can study beforehand to feel better prepared. Learn as much as you can about the people attending, the business they represent and the products or services they provide. Whenever possible, take advantage of as much information as you can gain before the networking situation arises.
2. Prepare with questions.
If you’re someone who feels awkward or uncomfortable when networking, don’t worry. The best thing to do to combat your nerves is to prepare yourself with questions. Networking revolves around intentional conversation, which includes questions. Instead of worrying about coming up with questions on the spot, prepare some beforehand to keep top of mind throughout the event. Then, whenever there’s an awkward pause, use your pre-prepared questions to break the ice. The conversation will keep flowing and you will feel confident as a top networker in your circle.
3. Practice active listening.
Of course, once you ask the question, then comes the actually challenging part: listening. No matter who you are, human beings tend to speak first and listen second. When someone talks to us, we spend half the time preparing our own answer in the back of our minds, rather than actually registering what they say. Instead, become a better networker and grow your circle by practicing active listening throughout the conversation. Then once you respond, you can utilize important details from the person’s comment to show them you cared enough to listen and actively engage in the conversation.
4. Offer solutions.
What’s the best way to grow your circle of networking relationships? Offer solutions for other people’s problems. Whenever possible throughout the conversation, see how you can offer a solution to help the person you talk with. Depending on the business and its products or services, consider collaborating together to help meet each others’ needs. A solution can mean a variety of different things, from emailing a helpful article to someone, to connecting them with another business professional, to even collaborating on an event together. When you offer solutions to others, they will offer solutions in return, helping to enhance your business and grow your networking circle.
5. Don’t forget the follow-up.
As a professional, you probably already know another popular saying: “The fortune is in the follow-up.” When it comes to networking, this could not be more true. The most critical step of every networking relationship is to follow up with the person you talk to. For instance, if you offer someone a solution, be sure to actually provide the solution to them in the follow-up. Even if you have a simple conversation with someone, send an intentional note thanking them for their time and sharing your excitement for the relationship in the future. When you follow up, you show that you care about the relationship, and strengthen each connection you make. Networking is one of the most valuable and important skills to have when it comes to promoting your business and expanding the brand. Fortunately, anyone can learn how to network and grow their circle. Use these tips the next time you find yourself in a networking situation, and watch your business grow because of it.