In the current tough economic climate, networking is probably an even more important marketing tool than it has ever been before. The wider your network, the more likely you will have contacts in businesses and organisations that are less affected by the general economic slow-down.  People have always bought “people” people. We all like to know who we are dealing with, what they are like, how they can help us and whether we trust them.

It is therefore very important to be confident in our ability to quickly build relationships.  However, many people find networking uncomfortable at best and down right scary at worst.  Nevertheless, an individual’s confidence and ultimately success at networking can be dramatically improved by adopting a few simple techniques.

Here are ten top tips that will help you to network more effectively.

  1. Have your own brief ‘advert’. When someone asks you ‘so what do you do?’ be prepared with a short answer. Most people will give you one minute to introduce what you do so make it count!
  2. Go to the right networking event. This may sound a bit obvious, but if you have no ambition to work with FTSE 100 companies, don’t attend your local breakfast club meeting where the attendees are likely to drawn from local SME’s.
  3. Set yourself some targets. Think about the meeting before hand. How many people would you like to meet and from which types of organisations? What information do you hope to gain? Remember, preparation and planning will increase your chance of success.
  4. Don’t sell – just network. The purpose of networking is to spend time with other people, to get to know them, and to find out some information that can be followed up at a later date.  Save the sales pitch for another day!
  5. Again it may sound obvious but don’t act in a way which makes others think you are desperate for their business. People generally like to talk to interesting, upbeat and confident people. You certainly won’t attract any new customers if you act as though you are anxious or distracted.
  6. Stay focussed. Remember you are networking to help to build your business further, so pay attention to the people you meet and to what they say.
  7. Be interesting. People like to talk with interesting people so do some homework. Plan a couple of topics beforehand that you can bring up and that you will enjoy discussing.
  8. Ask plenty of questions. In addition, have a number of conversation ‘openers’ pre-prepared. People love to talk about themselves so ask them what they like to do when they are not at work, what the most amazing place they have ever visited is or simply what’s their favourite pizza topping!
  9. Listen, listen and listen again. Pay attention to what people are telling you, and search for problems that you can solve. Follow up with your solution in business time.
  10. And finally – don’t forget that others will form an opinion of you from your interactions. Treat everyone you meet with respect and don’t make negative comments about other people or even your competition.  If you do people will simply wonder what you will say about them when you are not there.