15 Business Networking Best Practices

Successful business networking can lead to sustained and significant business growth. You can get started right now by following these 15 tips on how to introduce yourself and expand your network.

1. Focus on one person at a time

With networking, quality is just as important as quantity of contacts. Take the time to really get to know each new person you meet. Both online or offline, make sure you do more than just collecting contacts or followers.

2. Find the right platform

There are a million and one different ways to meet new people and build your network. Some are more helpful than others though and it’s important to invest your time and energy in the right ones. Although lots of people head straight over to Twitter or Facebook and start trying to meet people, platforms built for business networking can be much more effective. For offline networking, often local events related to your specific industry can be the most helpful.

3. Drop the business card

Want to know a secret? Nobody really looks at business cards. Think about it—how many times have you ever asked someone for their card and actually read it?

4. Ask others about their business

It’s a turn-off for people to hear you go on and on about your business. Ask about what they do. You’ll establish a connection without being irritating.

5. Offer free advice

When a new contact has a problem related to your field of expertise, give them a little of your know-how for free. They’ll come to think of you as the expert, will tell their friends about you and may come back when they’re looking to buy.

6. Be concise and be prepared

Yes, the “elevator pitch” is still important, but don’t make it sound like an advertisement. Simply offer a concise statement of what your business is about or what your skills are. It helps you stay focused so you don’t ramble. Honing your social media profiles, where you don’t have the luxury of infinite space to write, can really help here.

7. Don’t overstretch yourself

Setting aside time to meet new people is great, but don’t overdo it. The point is to find people you can get along with and who will help grow your business, not to exhaust yourself. Whether in person or online, little and often is usually the best way to go. That might mean you’re better off choosing only one or two online platforms to focus on, rather than trying to hit them all.

8. Find a networking wing man

Use your current contacts to make new ones. Just ask them to introduce you to someone you’re interested in talking to.

9. Listen more than you talk

Especially if you’re new to networking, it’s better to let the other person do the talking. Once you’ve shown an interest in what they do and who they are, they’ll be more likely to ask about you.

10. Share personal stories

This is what makes you memorable and approachable to people. If you’re meeting people at a networking event, they’ll hear dozens of new names and won’t remember them all. However, they may remember that you’re the person who ripped your shirt going zip lining, unlike the other forgotten attendees who simply tried to sell them something.

11. Scatter the seeds

Don’t be overly picky about who you choose to network with. You never know where someone will be in five years, or even next year for that matter! Besides, they may have a friend who is in a better position to do business or collaborate with you.

12. Don’t just think about yourself

People admire those who care about more than just making money. The best way to build a successful business network is to show people you have more to offer than just selling your products or services. Pushy sales tactics don’t work. People want to feel a connection with those they do business with, and establishing that friendship is what networking is about.

13. Keep in touch

Because networking is about establishing a friendship, you’ll have to work to maintain that contact. Make it a point to email or call your new contact just to re-establish the connection, not to make a pitch.

14. Don’t be afraid to meet online contacts offline

Online networking is brilliant, but there can be something powerful about sitting down face-to-face with someone too. If you’re based nearby or are passing through, don’t be afraid to meet up with your online contacts. Even just offering to meet often helps bolster your relationship.

15. Be yourself

You’ve probably heard this one over and over again, but it bears repeating. People will see through a fake. It’s better to work with people who sincerely share your interests and vision than to pretend for short-term gain. Long-term business relationships require honesty. Don’t fake it, just be you.

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