13 Networking Tips to Forge Strong Business Connections
Networking means building connections with other professionals usually in an informal social setting. It helps you expand your acquaintances, increase awareness about industry trends, and discover new opportunities for business partnerships and growth.
Further, networking allows you to develop strong relationships with professionals and businesses that may boost your future business prospects. It helps in connecting with industry leaders, building a reputation, increasing brand visibility, and promoting business growth. In fact, 95% of professionals believe that better business relationships are built through face-to-face meetings.
Hence, you must seize the opportunity to make the right first impression and seek exposure for your brand. In this post, we shall share excellent tips to strengthen your network and forge strong business connections.
6 Tactics to Network with Right Professionals
If you wish to build a successful business, you should get out there and make the right connections. There are a few factors you must consider before you connect with professionals.
Ask yourself the reason why you are networking – is it to seek investment for your business or to find new business opportunities? This will help you set the right intentions and clear goals before you go out and help you network with a purpose. It will also make it easier for you to determine the best events you must attend to meet your requirements.
Follow the below-mentioned steps to identify and connect with the right people to grow your professional network.
1. Identify Valuable Potential Business Professionals
As you decide the type of connections you wish to make, make a list of professionals who you consider to be the thought leaders of your industry. Include business leaders, industry experts, influencers, or individuals with a strong background and experience working in your niche.
Further, consider the people you already know who could be valuable additions to your network. For example, include people you have worked with in the past or the people who you went to college with.
Now that you have identified the individuals you wish to connect with, make two lists. The first list must contain the professionals you have already met in the past and want to strengthen your relationship with while the second one must include the people you want to meet. For example, your ex-colleagues, professionals you have met in past events, and more can be added to the first list. Similarly, thought leaders, SMEs, and niche influencers can be added to the second one.
Once the lists are ready, it is time to prepare your outreach strategy.
2. Prepare Your Outreach Strategy
Note down the best ways to connect with the professionals on the list. Conduct thorough research to get to know them in advance as it will help you leave a positive impression on them when you meet them. Your focus must be on making the interaction authentic and memorable.
Next, prepare a list of actions you can take to foster meaningful conversations with these professionals. For example, if you are attending an event, you must do some research on the attendees and the companies they work for. Further, you can prepare a list of questions ahead of time to engage the professionals in valuable talks. Avoid bragging about your achievements or pitching business propositions.
3. Attend Networking Events
Knowing where to go to build connections is crucial if you wish to form strong business relationships. Attending business networking events is the first step in successful networking. Find the right networking events in your industry while keeping yourself open to striking conversations in your day-to-day life. You can also attend local business events in your area to connect with local businesses.
Attending events such as seminars, conferences, workshops, and more presents you with exclusive opportunities to meet like-minded individuals and build meaningful connections. These individuals might also put you in contact with other professionals who could share their knowledge or present you with a unique business opportunity.
Conversing with individuals belonging to different backgrounds can provide you with refreshing insights about other industries and help you stay updated on the latest trends.
4. Join a Community
Groups and communities that meet regularly are ideal places for networking. Expand your reach by attending community meetup events in your area and surrounding yourself with individuals who share similar ideologies, passions, and goals.
Most of these communities are welcoming and provide immense opportunities for professional development, sharing questions or ideas, getting advice, networking, and business growth. Join a community or a group that interests you and stay involved as much as possible. Attend its meetings, events, and more to provide value to the members and contribute to the community.
Research coworking communities in your area as they are powerhouses of enthusiastic individuals who are always looking for like-minded and talented professionals. For example, The Address, a coworking space in Ahmedabad has an incredible community of expert professionals from various industries. It organizes amazing networking events, conferences, workshops, seminars, and more for its community members regularly.
Here is a quick glimpse at some of these events held at The Address.
5. Leverage Social Media Networks
Social media is also another powerful tool for networking and building your professional connections. LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, or any other networking website are excellent mediums for expanding your business contacts and strengthening your relationships. However, most professionals do not use the platform judiciously and make mistakes by following the wrong approach.
The first step to networking on social media is to build a solid social presence by posting engaging content. Avoid self-promotion on social media and focus on offering value to your connections. Engage in meaningful conversations by commenting on others’ posts, sending a message, and more to establish long-term relationships. Be professional in your approach and handle challenging situations diplomatically.
6. Start Your Own Networking Group
Hosting your networking group is also one of the effective mediums to grow your business network. Start by outlining your goals with a networking mindset and research the groups in your niche that already exist in your area.
Connect with the local leaders and expert professionals of your industry and request them to be a part of your group. Plan your first event and promote it in your community. Ensure that your first event is a hit as it will encourage more individuals to join your group and help you succeed.
You can also run a networking group online. For example, create a private group on LinkedIn and invite professionals to be a part of it. Keep the communication going by sharing polls, initiating discussions, and conducting group meetings.
Here is a screenshot of a private group on LinkedIn that aims to bring all HR industry professionals together and create an HR community for sharing the latest trends, tips and tricks, job and business opportunities, and more.
Now that you have this list of potential industry connections at your fingertips, it is time to engage them in meaningful conversations and build strong professional connections with them. In the next section, we will share seven effective tips to foster impressive conversations with your connections.
7 Tips for Building a Long-Lasting Connection
1. Identify Conversational Icebreakers
Everyone wants to make a good first impression on the individuals they wish to connect with. However, many of us fail to overcome the initial awkwardness and find introducing ourselves to a new person to be intimidating. Hence, using conversational icebreakers can help you drive away this awkwardness and start an interesting conversation.
Conversational icebreakers make people feel comfortable by striking a perfect balance between being professional and a bit personal at the same time.
Start the conversation by asking an open-ended question. You can comment on the surroundings or give a compliment to these individuals. Ask them questions about what they do for a living or find something that is common between you and them. This will help you develop the conversation and keep it going on naturally.
2. Pay Attention to Body Language
Body language plays a crucial role when meeting someone for the first time. Maintain an open posture by standing with your arms open, your back straight, and your head up. This makes others see you as more welcoming and friendly. Making eye contact and gesturing with your arms occasionally can make the conversation more compelling.
Offer a firm handshake and a real smile to showcase genuine interest and eagerness to build a connection. Your body language can liven up the conversation. It shows that you are paying attention to what the other person has to say and makes you appear invested in the conversation.
Similarly, observe the body language of the other person to gauge whether they are interested in speaking to you. If not, it is ideal to take their leave and strike up a conversation with someone else.
3. Be a Good Listener
Listening is a skill that is important if you wish to foster strong business relationships. Understand what the other person is trying to tell you by knowing its literal meaning and also recognizing the emotions behind the same. Convey genuine interest in the conversation by continuous engagement and asking relevant questions. Do not interrupt the other person and allow them time to finish their talk.
Show that you are listening by nodding your head occasionally or acknowledging what the other person has to say with a simple yes. Always focus on lending a supportive ear irrespective of the type of event you are attending by following the 70/30 rule of communication with you doing 30% of the talking.
If the conversation gets sidetracked due to unavoidable circumstances, steer back to the conversation by asking them to continue with what they were telling you.
4. Ask Relevant Questions
Every networking opportunity must be approached with a professional outlook. Leverage conversation starters to strike an initial talk. Remember, never ask someone what they do as soon as you meet them. Take time to make the conversation interesting.
Find a trending topic to have a conversation on and prepare a list of questions you may include. Keep the conversation going by encouraging the other person to talk about themselves. Show genuine interest in their contributions to the industry. Avoid having discussions on sensitive subjects, such as politics and religion.
Explore how you and the other individual can help one another in achieving your respective professional goals. If you need any sort of help from the other person then do not hesitate to ask for the same. Be confident while explaining what you do and firmly express how their assistance can help you without coming across as an aggressive person. Frame the right questions and present them in a way that puts you in a good light.
5. Express Gratitude
Gratitude and appreciation often create stronger bonds and help people to develop an interest in maintaining the relationship. Express gratitude for feedback, advice, or any other forms of support. You can also pass along information about businesses or introduce relevant professionals to these businesses and thank them for their help.
Remember networking is all about give and take. Do not be selfish by always asking favors for yourself as it will not result in a long-term business relationship. Provide value to one another by discovering opportunities that help you and your connections to prosper in their careers and grow a successful business.
6. Follow Up
Following up with your new connections makes perfect sense as it helps you grab their attention and leave a lasting impression. Your follow-ups should be done in a way that encourages further conversations. Show your connections that you are interested in staying in touch and keeping the relationship going.
If you meet these professionals at an event, you can connect with them online and maintain the relationship. On the other hand, if you did your networking online, it is ideal to suggest a meeting at the office or in a coffee shop so you can further connect. You can also share a relevant article, invite them to an event, or send festival wishes to keep the conversation going and boost your relationship.
7. Seek Referrals
Networking often opens up new avenues for asking for referrals. Strike up a valuable conversation with the desired professionals and ask them if they can provide you with a referral. Remember self-promotion does not work most of the time. You require individuals to advocate for you so that the referrals work in your favor. The best way to achieve this is to advocate for others.
Have authentic conversations and encourage others to share success stories. Build momentum to engage professionals and foster a sense of trust. This will surely result in some excellent referrals.
Similarly, if you understand that the professional you are speaking to is not relevant to your business, do not hesitate to refer them to the other person who might be of interest to them. This will foster good business connections among all the involved parties. Request for two business cards – one for yourself and one for someone who might be willing to do business with them.
Networking is one of the most effective tactics to build and strengthen strong business connections. It opens you to new growth opportunities and leads your business on the path to success. The more you understand how to network, the better it is for your business’s future.
We are certain that you will follow the tips we shared in this post to forge and maintain meaningful relationships with your contacts and nurture your business network.