1. Are you an active listener?
Listening is surely the most important skill for effective business networking. Focusing on how you can help the person you are listening to rather than on how he or she can help you is the first step to establishing a mutually beneficial relationship.
2. Do you identify clear goals for yourself?
Visualising your ideal future will help you to clarify exactly what it is you want to achieve in terms of specific goals. You may want to tell people what you’re looking for, but first you need to tell yourself exactly what it is that you want.
Clearly, it's useful to think about what you want to accomplish via a particular networking opportunity – formal or otherwise. Are you looking to develop new business or do you want to expand your network of contacts and become known as the ‘go-to’ person in the industry?
3. Are you good at linking up?
Whether in person or online, have you joined key sites like Linkedin, Facebook, Google plus et al? Being a committed tweeter or WhatsApper is obviously another key way to gain access and exposure to people you might not otherwise meet.
For those who feel feel shy in face-to-face situations, joining social media groups is a great way to extend your professional circles. And because everyone knows that networking is the name of the game, you don't need to feel embarrassed about saying hello to get connected.
4. Are you organised?
No matter what your occupation, there’s usually a professional organization for you. National and international professional associations often have local groups where you can meet. Attend conferences and other professional events that could help you keep up-to-date on the latest industry news, trends, developments and research.
5. Do you really use your business cards?
Your business card, as well as your positive greeting and firm handshake, is usually one of your best networking tools. Don’t be shy about sharing them.
6. Is your style always appropriate?
If you stay around for a longer chat, stay in tune, The tone of your communications often matter more than what you are actually saying.. Over-familiarity may alienate some, while extreme formality might do the same to others.
Judge if the time is really right for you to share your entire career history and your inside leg measurements. Maybe a brief declaration of who you are and why you thought you would introduce yourself is a safer option. Have a look at our GRABS formula if you think an elevator pitch might help you to prepare.
7. Are you extra polite?
If in doubt, be uber polite. Thank people for their advice, acknowledge their worries and concerns, affirm their perspectives – stay attentive to their feelings.
Whether you decide to make a call, send them an email or a handwritten note, do follow up your meetings and promises - let people know you enjoyed meeting them. Create the impression you choose, as savvy professional, an easy person to do business with, a source of useful information - you want to be remembered.
8. Do you ever give your time and energy for free?
Why not call people with no ulterior motive but just to stay in touch? Send them an email about an article, conference or product that you think they would find interesting or useful. Give them something for free.
Volunteering, supporting good causes, helping a charity or getting involved in community events often involve developing new relationships. They are also forms of networking that can pay all sorts of dividends - beyond those to your soul!
For those who feel they simply don’t have the time or energy for philanthropy, think again. Taking an active part in your company’s corporate social responsibility programme still means a win-win for all concerned, whether your intentions are totally pure or not.
9. Do you stay connected and visible?
Remain connected between meetings. There’s a fine line between being seen as a resource and being seen as a spamming nightmare, so if you’re not sure how to pitch things, do your homework first.
If it feels you could post a reply to a request on their group’s message board, forward them information or email them about recent developments - stay in touch and remain visible.
10. Do you create your own opportunities?
Start something! It could be a special interest group, an extra-curricular club or some sort of society. You might introduce or suggest an idea or special project or scheme at your company. There are countless ways of getting people together that may lead to making more connections.
Some people believe that the best networking takes place socially. Why not send out invitations to something? Inviting colleagues, prospective clients and contacts to an event establishes a more personal relationship and hopefully a more relaxed professional partnership.
11. Are you actively seeking connections?
According to some, ‘It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you’ - which may sound horribly cynical.
Who are those people you DON’T know who you’d like to know? They may be someone who knows something you want to know, they may be a keynote speaker, an expert in your field or someone able to offer you business opportunities.
Taking the idea further, who you do you already know who may know them? Six degrees of separation and all that! It's usually far easier to meet new people through those you know already so get your friends and colleagues working with you.
Just remember though that there’s nothing worse than abusing the favour - so make sure it’s worth their while, as their reputation may be on the line too.
12. Have you revisited your past recently?
Speaking of friends, what are your old school friends or acquaintances up to these days? Look them up and stay connected - there could be all sorts of nice surprises out there!