Networking has been around for just about as long as business, in various shapes and forms. It can be an extremely effective, low-cost marketing strategy – when done correctly. Unfortunately, many people lose out simply because they don’t quite know the game.

Don’t miss a great opportunity to boost your business! For networking success, always follow these simple and steadfast rules of play:

1. Be Genuine & Authentic

People like to do business with people they like, and nobody likes a pretender. Savvy networkers can spot a false façade a mile away, and they instinctually steer clear.

No matter how great you are, no matter how fantastic your product is, it won’t matter one bit if others feel you may have something to hide.

Always stay true to your personality, represent your business honestly, and build genuine relationships with your fellow networkers. Authenticity will set you apart and leave a positive impression, which will encourage people to do business with you… instead of your competition.

2. Listen More than You Talk

Have you ever met someone new – at a party, in the grocery store, standing in line for the movies – and they did nothing but talk nonstop about themselves? Did it make you want to run in the other direction?

When networking, your mission should not be to prove how cool you and your business are. It should be to find out as much as possible about the person to whom you are speaking, finding a way to make a connection so a relationship can be built.

The next time you meet up, whether it’s at another networking function or in person one-on-one, you should at least have some talking points so you can pick the conversation back up and continue building the relationship. Good networking relationships lead to trust, and trust leads to business.

3. Bring Only Five Business Cards to Any Function

There are many experts who will disagree with this way of thinking. However, if you have ever attended a typical networking event and walked away with a stack of cards, you’ll recognize some truth in what I’m saying here.

Thinking of that stack of cards, how many of the people behind the cards can you actually remember? How many did you follow up with? How many did you actually do business with? For most people, that number is pretty low.

Remember – networking is about building relationships. Reserve your cards for those people with whom you truly connected and plan on following up with. It’s always more important to make solid connections with a few, than meaningless connections with many.

4. Don’t be that Guy

You know the one. He goes around to every person in the room, intrusively of course, and shoves his business card in your hand.

He interrupts your current conversation to tell you who he is and why you need to know him. And then, before you even have a chance to respond, off he goes to the next unsuspecting victim. Sound familiar? Don’t be that guy.

Get on a First-name Basis with the Event Organizer

I cannot stress this enough: the most important person in the room is the one who brought you all together. Seek out the organizer (respectfully), strike up a conversation, and make the connection.

A good leader will point you in the direction of some key people he or she feels you should know, and a really good leader will make the introductions personally. Once he or she knows who you are, what you do, and who you are interested in connecting with, you may even get some great referrals and post-event introductions.

Want to know the best way to cement the relationship? Reciprocate. Encourage people you know to attend the leader’s events, introduce him or her to potential clients and alliances, and do whatever you can to help support his or her efforts. A good rule to follow with any networking connection.

The bottom line is simple: Networking is a great tool, and can make a huge impact on your business. It’s up to you whether that impact is a positive one.

Do you have additional networking rules to add? Actions that have proven to be effective for you? Networking success stories? Share them below!

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