The art of networking

The business world can sometimes feel like a cut-throat environment, which often leads small business owners to believe that they have to always be on guard against potential competitors. However, this attitude can make managing your small business much more difficult than it has to be. In reality, there is ample opportunity for small businesses to collaborate and complement each other’s missions.

In fact, one of the best ways to help your business move to the next level is to get out there and form lasting relationships with other business owners. This simple step can provide you with valuable resources when you need them, advice when you’re floundering and support when you’re feeling rudderless.

Of course, building these bridges isn’t easy, often requiring strong interpersonal skills and a keen nose for collaborative opportunities.

Here are some tips to help you improve your networking skills.

Avoid the hard sell
If you are trying to create a network of like-minded and mutually supportive businesspeople, the last thing you want to do is approach the situation like a salesperson. Remember, you are not trying to persuade anybody to buy something, you are trying to build a relationship with them. You are better off trying to keep the meeting light and fun, as this will help show your potential contact that you are somebody worth knowing.

Make yourself accessible
Forming a large and mutually beneficial network requires you to be open and accessible. Just as you hope that the person you are meeting will be there to offer guidance and support when you need it, it is crucial that you are not sequestered in some unreachable tower. Go to conferences, host get-togethers and initiate online interactions. Furthermore, you should always go to conferences with business cards and a method for retaining other people’s contact information.

Be passionate
Perhaps more important than anything else is that you inspire others to want to connect with you and your business. No one wants to build a relationship with someone who isn’t excited about their company or interested in moving forward. Discuss your goals, ask questions about your new acquaintances and display your enthusiasm for interesting ideas.

If you are hoping to build a business network, you must bring something to the table. Connections in the corporate world are all about quid pro quo, and it is essential that you can demonstrate your strengths and excitement from the outset.

How have you approached networking? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Martin Jones

Martin Jones is a Senior Marketing Manager with the corporate Cox Communications social media team where he assists in leading strategy, campaign ideation and marketing execution for Cox Business social media & content marketing. Today, over 1 million fans engage with Cox Communications content, campaigns and Customer Care on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube. LinkedIn and Google+.