Sales & Marketing

Six tips on how to network and create true, meaningful connections

6 min read

16 October 2015

Perfecting the art of networking means becoming more "authentic". Here are six ways to create meaningful connections.

Establishing and developing a professional network should be high up on the list of priorities for any business. It’s a simple, fun and effective way to showcase your brand and win business. 

But don’t expect immediate success, it’s a long-term strategy and one that you must be patient with.

Meaningful connections are key to how you run your business and grow relationships. The goal of networking should always be to develop genuine and authentic relationships with long-term objectives. 

So how do you create that network of colleagues, advocates and associates that you know, like and trust, to help you achieve this? 

1) Keep it real, and listen!

For me, the key ingredient for authentic networking is sincerity. Like you, most people want genuine conversations, real relationships. It’s always better to have a meaningful conversation with a handful of people, rather than spread yourself too thin across a number of insincere, “networking conversations.” 

When you meet someone, listen, and understand how you can help them. Nobody likes being talked to or, being sold to, so avoid this at all costs. Consider and ask relevant questions about their business with real, genuine enthusiasm. Only talk about your own business when the opportunity arises. 

Make sure you have something to offer, do so with sincerity. Follow up on this too. This sets you apart as accountable as well as authentic.

2) Create genuine value – become a ‘connector’

Smart networking is about understanding your value; your experience, opportunities you can offer, as well as your contacts. Your authenticity lies in understanding how you can help contacts and connecting them in a meaningful, relevant way. It’s creating this value for other people that helps them become more successful. 

Equally, raising your profile in this way is what will help your own brand and will ultimately lead to you winning business.

3) Give without expectation 

This is what sets authentic networkers apart; don’t approach networking with a mind-set of what you can get. Focus on what you can give. 

The people I’ve learnt the most from in networking are those who take a ‘pay it forward’ approach. They take the time to see how they can help, be it sharing their network, knowledge or offering a helping hand.

An outcome for you will be building your reputation, developing your expertise, and giving you that personal purpose beyond your own business, into your local community. Its good karma and it will come back to you.

Read more networking tips on page two…

4) Invest in the relationships

The goal of networking goes beyond LinkedIn contacts. It’s developing genuine relationships, with like-minded people. 

As with everything in life, what you put in, is what you get out. Investing time to network – be it at an event, over a coffee or more informally – enables you to connect with other people who are aligned with your business goal or vision. 

Surrounding yourself with a network of other motivated business people opens you up to wider sources of advice, support, inspiration and mentorship – opportunity inevitably follows, be it a referral or a new working partnership. 

5) Affirm your own networking style

What kind of networker do you want to be? In many ways, it’s like leadership – authentic networking is something you have to want and demonstrate. This is your personal brand so create your own style, your own mindset and understand how it works for you and your business. What’s the impact you want to make through networking? 

Authentic networking is an incredibly powerful accelerator for business growth. At the core, it’s about sharing success in a sincere and meaningful way. When you help those around you become more successful, so you become more integral to their own networks and businesses. 

6) Train your team in the art of networking and invest in them!

If you have employees, make sure that you pass on your knowledge and passion for authentic connecting – demonstrate massive enthusiasm for this skill. Becoming a good networker won’t happen overnight and it won’t come naturally to most, so you need to ensure your team understand the strategy and recognise its value. 

Look at their training needs and adapt their personal development programme to include reference to networking. If they need help with public speaking or developing confidence then look to host a session with an external trainer – the cost will be worth it in the long run. Show not tell is key here; the energy and commitment must come from the top and filter through the entire organisation.

And remember, when the investment and hard work starts to pay off and business begins to flow, be mindful that your introducer is putting their own reputation at risk by recommending you – so make sure you provide an outstanding service and don’t let them down!

Paul Macbeth is MD of Macbeth.