Whether you own a small business or work in sales for a Fortune 500 company, relationships are critical to success in business. With the addition of do not call lists and tougher gatekeepers, networking is rapidly becoming the hot ticket in creating new contacts and developing new business. Networking, like in sales, is a learned skill that can be enhanced through education and practice. Your ability to be effective in networking can make the difference between success and failure in building your business.

Here are a couple of basic things to help you think clearly about effective networking and some tips to excel at it.

First you must decide where to spend your time:

1. Try out a number of events before you make a decision to joining one. Most groups will allow you to visit 2-3 times before making a decision.

2. Talk to the people who actually run the group and their members to make sure there are industries or people that you have interest in meeting. For example, I like to work in the Business-to-Business market, not in retail. I want to make sure there are a number of companies in that segment.

Then understand the basics of networking:

1. Networking has the word “work” in it for a reason. You are not there only to eat and socialize, but to create meaningful business relationships. Go there with a plan to meet and follow up with at least 5 new contacts.

2. Take the bull by the horns. Walk up to new people and introduce yourself. Don’t be a wallflower waiting around for someone to talk to you first.

3. Ask them about their business first. Some good questions include, “How did you get your start in the ________ business?”- “What do you enjoy most about your profession?” and “What are some of the changes that have occurred in your industry?”

4. Connections are everywhere!! The person you are speaking to generally has over 250 people in his network. One of his contacts could be the right one for you. If you don’t get to know him, you might not have the chance to meet the people he knows.

Let’s get advanced, shall we:

1. One of the keys to networking is to look how you can help others first. I know for some it’s hard not to think of ourselves first, but it’s important to really WORK and try to connect the people you meet. This must be done with integrity and without the need for immediate reciprocation. Basically, I’m saying to give selflessly. This does not produce the fastest results for your business, but pays off in spades down the road if you’re patient.

2. Find the best people to network with. As you probably know there are 2 types of networkers out there, the takers and the givers. Your job is to find and develop a relationship with someone like you, hopefully a giver. For example, I am looking for someone with integrity, an open mind and a willingness to go the extra mile to help me for no other reason than to see me succeed. As you can probably imagine, it doesn’t take too many people like this in my network to help me get ahead.

3. If you are truly a giver in networking, there is one question that can separate you from most networkers. This question should be asked after a relationship has already been established with someone. “How do I know if someone I’m speaking to is a good prospect for you?” A more selfless question, I’ve never heard.

Networking can produce tremendous results for your business, but only after you take the time to understand how it REALLY works. Try some of the ideas mentioned here and see for yourself.

© 2006 All Rights Reserved – Do not reproduce this document without written permission from Steve Fretzin at Sales Results, Inc.

Steve Fretzin is the owner of Sales Results, Inc and The Executives Profit, LLC. Prior to owning these businesses, Steve worked for over 16 years in the field of sales, management and business development.

Find More Network Articles

Buyfave.com