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5 easy tips to grow your business network

Whether you're just starting in your career or are well-established, networking can be a challenge. See our tips to grow your network naturally and with ease.

Business owner growing their network

Networking can be daunting and sometimes might feel a little bit forced. However, connecting with people is a great way to build your business network and it can be invaluable for your career.

It’s often said in business, it’s not what you know but who you know. This is why learning how to network is incredibly important, so you can make new contacts within your profession and develop long-lasting relationships. 

So, we’ve put together this article about effective networking best practices. If you want to receive some networking tips and tricks that’ll help to elevate your business and personal growth, then you’ve come to the right place.

Whether it’s meeting people face-to-face or online, the five professional networking tips covered in this article will ensure you’ve got what it takes to network successfully – starting today!

5 effective networking tips that will work for everyone

Business networking is all about sharing information and knowledge with like-minded professionals. It’s an ongoing process, which requires patience, persistence, organisation, and good etiquette

If you can demonstrate your business’s value, and your own, to potential clients and employers, then you’ll likely be delighted by the positive results. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at our five top tips for how to network effectively.

1. Be prepared

The first in our list of networking tips is preparation. Before you next attend an event, whether it’s in-person or online, make sure you think about who you want to meet and the reasons for doing so.

If you have a clear idea of who you want to speak to and the benefits that interaction may have for your business, then you’re able to plan your business networking time effectively and prepare for those discussions. 

While you shouldn’t rehearse everything you want to say word-for-word, being prepared will ensure you don’t get flustered and have clear goals about what you want to achieve.

Networking is all about how you present yourself, first impressions, and good delivery. If you know exactly who is attending and some background information about the company they represent, then you’ll be able to tailor your approach and stand out from the crowd. 

This way, you’ll increase your chances of speaking to potential clients, employers, and employees you want to connect with.

Establishing some goals before the event and having some good conversation starters lined up can always help you feel more at ease. Here are a few to get you started:

  • What do you do for work?
  • What do you enjoy the most/least about your job?
  • What’s your working background and experience?
  • What brings you to this event and what are you most excited about?
  • Is there anyone you’re looking forward to meeting in particular?

In terms of questions, good themes to target include career, education, industry, job responsibilities, company culture, and event-specific queries.

2. Use social media

Social media has fast become an essential component of effective networking. Platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter are great for people that either don’t like the pressure of in-person networking, or who want to reach out to someone first before they get to know them face-to-face. 

By using social media for business networking, you can easily seek like-minded professionals and start a conversation with them. You could either do this by sending them a direct message or simply replying to a post of theirs with a comment. 

There is a good chance your new connection may just stay as an online interaction, but if you do meet in person at some point in the future, then this initial conversation is a good way of breaking the ice and ensuring the initial awkward networking pleasantries are already taken care of.

Social media is also a great way of staying in touch with existing contacts and ensuring working relationships don’t fizzle out. You may even find that through your existing contacts, you’re able to make new connections with similar people.

While there are several social media platforms at your disposal, we recommend utilising LinkedIn and Twitter when it comes to business networking.

3. Be a good listener and let people speak

When learning how to network, professional networking tips don’t come any more important than this. 

It may seem obvious, but it’s amazing how many people don’t listen and are only concerned with talking about themselves. No matter your job position, background, or experience, this tip applies to everyone.

Being a good conversationalist means being a great listener, so make sure you listen to what someone has to say and stay engaged and interested. 

If you don’t, then the person you’re speaking to is likely to lose concentration and move on. You may only get one shot at speaking to them, so make sure they feel valued and respected. 

Asking a few non-work related questions (not too personal) is always a good way of creating a more interesting conversation that’s likely to keep you both engaged. You could try:

  • Where are you from?
  • What are your inspirations and passions?
  • What do you like doing outside of work?
  • Do you have any big goals for the next few years?

Unfortunately, when you network, you’re often so focused on sharing your own story that you forget to listen to what someone actually says. That’s why questions like this are helpful, as they show them that you’re paying attention and form the foundation for building strong working relationships.

Finally, not only is listening beneficial to the person you’re speaking to, but it also means that you’ll be able to determine whether they’re a valuable connection and ask better-informed questions.

4. Offer to help and share advice

Effective networking isn’t just about what you can get from others, it’s also about what you can offer them. In turn, by being helpful and sharing advice, you’re likely to receive something worthwhile from your new connection in the future and they’ll hold you in high regard.

Information you can share could include something about the industry you work in, contact details that may benefit them, or even possible job opportunities. Sharing useful information is not only a good way of developing connections, but it’s also an important tool for maintaining them. 

You also shouldn’t be afraid to ask for advice yourself. Networking is all about give and take, so if you believe that someone is in a position to offer you invaluable advice, or even improve your career or business in a certain way, then make sure you reach out and seize the opportunity. 

People often like to be asked for help, as it shows that you’ve listened to what they have to say and value their opinion.

5. Say thank you and follow up

The final suggestion in our list of networking tips is arguably the most important – be polite and follow up! Business networking is all about creating a genuine working relationship that can benefit both parties in the long run. 

Thanking your connection for taking the time to speak to you and acknowledging that it was a pleasure to meet them goes a long way.

Finishing on a positive note and making a good final impression means they’re more likely to respond should you reach out to them in the future. They may even recommend you to one of their other contacts.

Professional networking tips don’t get much bigger than the follow-up. We recommend speaking to them again within 48 hours to ensure you stay fresh in their mind, even if that’s just with a polite email to say thank you or a request to connect with them on LinkedIn. 

You don’t need to ask for any favours immediately, it’s more a case of keeping the conversation going and showing that you want to stay in touch. Moving forward, it’s always worthwhile reconnecting with someone at least two or three times a year.

Below, we have listed some key things to include in an effective follow-up email:

  • An intriguing and engaging subject line
  • Express gratitude for their time
  • Add a personal touch obtained from your conversation with them
  • Include further details or information about something you discussed
  • Conclude your email by saying that you look forward to seeing or speaking to them again in the future.

How to network: additional courses

So, there you have it, our five networking tips that’ll help to grow your business network and create long-lasting connections. While the above advice isn’t foolproof, it will certainly help you to build your network and create a pool of professionals that can add real value to your working life.

However, our advice and tips on how to network don’t end there. At FutureLearn, we offer a plethora of courses about business networking that can help you to connect with your peers confidently and effectively. 

From those starting a new business who are looking to grow their network to already established organisations looking to maintain their connections, our courses are tailored to suit all needs.

Get started today for professional networking tips that facilitate effective networking, no matter who you are.

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