Every entrepreneur knows how important it is to network and build solid business relationships. Whether you engage with people online or in the real world, you are going to need others to bring your dreams to fruition.
Understanding the importance of networking and knowing how to network are two very different things. After reading an article recently, I wanted to summarize the four most important points that I took out of it.Â These four tips will help you to become a power networker and up your networking game.
1. Networking is about Quality, not Quantity
You should try to attend at least two or three networking events a month.Â Many people try to do a lot more. Â That does not mean they are going to be more successful.
Great entrepreneurs realize that networking is not an MLM strategy.Â Don't be concerned with how many business cards you bring home.Â One of my mentors told me that you should go to a networking event with the goal of bringing home one business card that will really make a difference in your ventures.
That doesn't mean that you should limit yourself.Â The bottom line is that you don't want to spread yourself too thin.Â You want to spend enough time with the people you meet to be able to develop a quality connection with them and get them to feel comfortable catching up with you later.Â This is one of the criticisms of speed networking events that limit the time you have to interact with any one person.
2. Keep in touch with your contacts
Networking is useless if you don't follow up with the people you meet.Â A rule of thumb from the article I read suggests that you make two phone calls a week.Â Obviously, you can send as many emails as you are comfortable with.Â You probably aren't going to benefit from your relationship overnight, so make sure that you spend time so you can make something out of it.
3. Stay Organized
One of the reasons that networkers fail is that they simply can't keep things straight.Â They forget who they need to catch up with and what they need to say.Â If you are organized, you can develop much more effective business relationships.
You should consider developing a database with your contacts in it.Â This can involve Google Calendars, a sophisticated CMS system or something as simple as Microsoft Excel.Â Classic networkers don't feel they need databases.Â If you have an appointment calendar, you can simply record your notes in there.
Always keep your business cards somewhere where you can find them easily later.Â Even if you have contact details saved on your computer, seeing the business card will help you visualize who you've met and what you said.
4. Show Your Appreciation
If someone goes out of their way for you, you want to do the same for them.Â At a minimum, you should make sure that you tell them how much you appreciate it.Â Relationships are built on trust.Â Make sure that you can reinforce that trust with gestures of goodwill.
Make Sure You Have a Strategy for Networking
Building relationships is not easy for most people.Â You may be outgoing and enjoy meeting new people, but you still have to have the discipline to actually follow up with them.Â Make sure that you have a plan of action so that you will network effectively.
Kalen Smith is the founder of Engineer-a-Business, a provider of business-to-business services and informational products for developing technology businesses. Read more about Kalen here.