More than ever being an excellent networker is an essential skill for every businessperson but unfortunately not everyone knows how to network effectively.

What about you? Do you have finely honed networking skills or do you think there might be some room for improvement?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you forget to say thank you when you get an introduction?
  2. Do you neglect to follow-up with ALL of your networking introductions?
  3. Do you follow-up in a timely manner?
  4. Are you proactive in making introductions or are you waiting for your contacts to ask?
  5. Do you make it a point to have one-to-one meetings whether by phone or in-person?

It’s not rocket science; networking skills can be learned and if you want to get the maximum ROT (return on time) from your networking efforts then you must master the art of networking.

Here are five ways to help you improve your networking skills and generate better results too:

Say thank you

It’s pretty straightforward. You won’t keep a referral source for long if you’re not showing your appreciation for their efforts to help you. If someone has given you a lead or valuable information, say “thank you” immediately and while an email note is time efficient and convenient a handwritten note is better! Consider taking them to lunch if they have really gone out of their way to help you or perhaps send a donation to the charity of their choice. Remember that it takes a long time to build a trusted networking relationship and a much shorter amount of time to see it disappear.

Be proactive

Don’t wait for someone to ask you for a specific referral. Be proactive. Mention that you have an interesting person for them to meet. Communicate the synergies that can be shared. Introduce influencers to other influencers. No, they might not be the end person who uses the product or service, but they can introduce the person to possible end-users. 

Set Up Small Informal Networking Events

Just because you are crunched for time doesn’t mean that you can’t engage in some substantive networking. Organize small get-togethers where 6 people gather for coffee or a meal. The best way to get the “most” out of this effort is to ask a fellow networker to invite two people that you don’t know and you do the same. In that way you’ll be guaranteed to meet some new people and expand your own networking horizons. 

Follow Up and Follow Through

Let me be clear about this – if you are not going to take the time and effort to follow-up you’re your networking connections and follow-through with introductions and contacts then you might as well save yourself the time and forgo doing any networking at all. Networking requires time and patience and it is a bit like tending to a garden. You nurture the (networking) seeds that have been planted and in time you will see things start to grow.

Stay on the grid

We’re all busy but if you disappear from sight you can be certain that your networking contacts will develop relationships with other individuals that are in the same or similar business. Staying on the grid is easy if you use the “three I’s” (invitations, introductions and information) and my good friend and business colleague Adrian Miller (www.adrianmiller.com) can explain much more about that amazingly effective strategy!

Half of the year is almost gone. Have you been effective in your networking endeavors? Be honest with yourself and see if you need to make some adjustments so that you too can get the best ROT (return on time!) from your efforts.