Top tips for business networking

Business networking is an important part of your business growth, Terry Hamill Director of BNI Merseyside has shared some of his top tips to help you become a succesful networker.

To a networking novice the prospect of schmoozing for business at a business function can be a scary thought. For others, it might seem a bit of a waste of time. But with the recession taking its toll on firms across the North, more and more companies are taking extra steps to boost trade, and discovering that networking can be big business.

I believe that every business, from the sole trader to the big city law firm, can reap a wealth of benefits from networking events that will help to make your business very successful. So, here are my top tips for successful business networking:

  1. Always be prepared
    The best preparation for successful networking is to make sure you have the tools to network with you at all times – such as business cards and brochures about your business.
  2. Be proactive
    A successful networker knows that it pays to be proactive and to take a lead in any business event – whether it’s a networking event, business meeting or seminar or conference session. Why not volunteer in a session or introduce yourself to those you are sitting by. You never know who you could end up in conversation with.
  3. Set goals
    Many people are concerned about getting effective results from the time they spend networking, and it helps to set a reachable goal for the number of people you will meet and talk with during an event – and don’t leave until you’ve done it. And as your confidence at networking grows, you can make this goal increasingly ambitious.
  4. Listen!
    It may sound strange but a good tip to remember is that a good networker has two ears and one mouth - so ask questions and listen to what the other person does, before you start to talk about yourself and your own business.
  5. Take the pressure off
    If you are expecting to ‘close a deal’ every time you walk up to a potential new client for the first time, then it is no wonder you might feel uncomfortable. Networking is about developing relationships with other professionals. Meeting people at events should be the beginning of the process, not the end of it.
  6. Give
    The best networkers believe in the ‘givers gain’ philosophy. What goes around comes around in the business world, and an effective networker should always be looking for how they can genuinely help others. So look for opportunities to pass on some good advice or point people in the right direction. 
  7. Don’t spread yourself too thinly
    When you meet someone interesting, it is natural to want to spend a long time chatting to them - but this can really limit your potential. Think of networking as speed dating for business people. Don’t forget, you can set up a follow up appointment for a later date.
  8. Be true to your word
    Finally, make it your goal to contact each person you have met again, and make sure that fulfil any promises you have made.