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Networking 101

Networking is an invaluable business tool, providing you with business connections that can offer support, share experiences and referrals, and provide opportunities to collaborate on projects. While there’s certainly a knack to networking effectively, following my tips can help you expand your business network, forming trusted relationships with like-minded business owners.

Skills for Networking

The essence of networking is relationship building. While this might seem simple at first, there are a number of skills that will help you network effectively, forming lasting relationships with potential business partners, as well as prospective customers.

A good networker:

Communicates well. The basis of all good communication is listening. Make sure you have a good to-and-fro going in conversations, and that your connections feel comfortable approaching you just as much as you approach them.

Has a positive attitude. So much of forming relationships with others is gelling well with another person. Having an open and friendly attitude, all while presenting yourself in a professional manner, will help you get your foot in the door a lot easier than being abrasive.

Is sincere, authentic and integrous. Rachael Bermingham once said “There’s something about human nature which draws us to people who are authentic, and makes us want to repel those that aren’t.”. People can usually sense fakeness from a mile away – instead approach people with sincerity and authenticity, following up with integrity.

Before you begin networking in earnest, take the time to develop your interpersonal skills. You’ll find that building connections with others is much easier if you have the right tools to begin with.

The benefits of networking

Having a strong group of people that you can build rapport with and lean on for help is extremely beneficial in business. Networking can help you:

· Share referrals with others when hiring freelancers or subcontracting services

· Problem solve with others when difficulties arise

· Collaborate with other businesses owners on large scale projects

· Share business triumphs and woes with like-minded people

Networking can not only have many social benefits, it can also provide opportunities to grow and build your business, all while helping others do the same.

How to start networking

For me, joining Business Network International (BNI), a membership organisation for small businesses to network and get referrals, was a game changer. BNI operates in most suburbs in Australia through weekly meetings, with approximately 120,000 members worldwide. Joining it or a similar organisation can help you make valuable business contacts to help expand your network.

If joining an organisation isn’t your thing, you can also look online for potential networking opportunities. Finding similar businesses and potential clients on platforms such as LinkedIn can be a great way to get started, and often times leads to further connections through word of mouth. Like all things in life, a good recommendation is sometimes all you need to get your foot in the door with a prospective client.

Start building your network and you’ll find that more opportunities arise as times goes on.

Do you have any networking opportunities on the horizon? Share your interests below and you may just find a new connection to add to your network!

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