What would your business be like if you could turn more networking connections into sales? Networking can be a huge boost to your business, if it’s done well. Networking is a skill set and like anything else takes actual deliberate practice to get good at. How can you become a better networker?

Focus on learning how you can add value to the people you meet Ask open ended questions to learn about people and what they are looking to accomplish. Examples of good open ended questions to start a conversation include, “how did you get in to this field” and “what’s your favorite part of what you do”? As you open up the conversation, you can transition into questions like, “what are your goals for this year” to understand what the person is looking to accomplish. When you understand what a person is looking to accomplish, you can more effectively add value. 

Consistently add value to the people you meet– We all meet tons of people. To stand out it is crucial to add value that is targeted toward helping the specific person you are getting in contact with. That’s why it is so important to ask the questions above, because you get an understanding of HOW you can add value. Ways to add value include- Sending a helpful article about the person’s industry or occupation, connecting that person with someone who could be a quality connection for them, and sharing about helpful books. Go in with the attitude of giving with no expectation. People will see you as someone who is helpful and be more open to having a sales conversation when you request it. You will also build better relationships.

Have a follow up system in place– How organized is your follow up system? A true follow up system allows you to be touch with your whole network at all times. So, when someone wants to buy your product or service you are the person they think of. Building a full scale follow up system takes years of work, automation, and having quality people to support your outreach efforts. It starts with having a CRM(Customer Relationship Management) software or a means of tracking your contacts and prospects. Then set up tasks to keep track of next step with prospects and the value you have added. I use Zoho as my CRM which is free. Click here to check out Zoho.

Utilize social media consistently– All of the platforms available online are great ways to build relationships. High quality platforms to invest time in are Linkedin, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram. Each has their own unique spin. On Linkedin, you have the opportunity to connect with potential prospects and quality networking connections on a platform for building potential business relationships.The key is to consistently connect with people you meet and add value as described above. You can then connect with people in your connections network by phone, message, and e-mail. You can specifically target people who could be good referral partners or prospects by categories like range. On Facebook, you can build more of a personal relationship by liking statuses, sharing posts, and being a positive advocate. On Facebook you can run groups, post yourself, and make live videos which can help people to get value from your products and services. Snapchat and Instagram are more focused on pictures and telling a story. Whereas Twitter is focused on building relationships over messages. The most important step is to find the platform that works best for you, your message, and how your audience will get value. Don’t use a platform because an influencer says to, find what really resonates with you. You will create a following and thus sales. You can use tools like Hootsuite and Buffer to automate your posts so you don’t have to post yourself. I use buffer app which you can check out by clicking here.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable- To become a better network it requires starting conversations you don’t want to have, spending money you don’t want to spend, and building relationships that you don’t expect ROI from. Real networking is a LONG term game because its about building real relationships. Real relationships take time to build. There is no short term solution, be more concerned with helping others and you will get everything you want in the end.