Best Practices

MOSourcelink: How to Network Like You Mean It

Published Jan 22, 2014

Money, jobs, sales, customers—if this is why you network, then you’re doing it all wrong.

So what is business networking then?

According to Alana Muller, president of FastTrac, blogger and author of Coffee, Lunch, Coffee: A Practical Field Guide for Master Networking, networking is “creating or building personal relationships without a predetermined outcome in mind.” For Muller, the idea is to approach networking without an agenda. It’s about building relationships rather than building your Rolodex.

Beyond putting your nametag on the right in the line of sight and restating the person’s name, here are five networking tips Muller gave during her presentation to the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) :

1. Don’t be afraid to ask. 
The most difficult part is asking for the meeting. Muller says you’d be surprised how many people are open to meeting and chatting over coffee or lunch. As humans, we crave connections, community, and a sense of belonging. Networking can help us fulfill that need.

2. Bring a gift. 
Networking is about being generous with your time, information, and resources. Whether you’re networking one-on-one or at a networking event, come equipped with a valuable piece of information to share, maybe your favorite restaurant, movie, book, handyman.

3. Ask different questions. 
Sure you could ask, “What do you do?” Or you could ask a more memorable and interesting questions like, “What’s your favorite app?” “Where do you want to travel?” “What’s your story?”

4. Shirk the quota.
It’s not about how many business cards you have at the end of the night. Go for quality connections. 

5. Lurk by the food/bar. 
This tip goes out to all the introverts who have trouble entering conversations already under way. Eventually, everyone passes through the food line or saunters up to the bar. Make that your home plate.

It comes down to this: we don’t do business with business cards, but with people. And we prefer to do business with people we know. Networking Muller’s way helps us build a network of trusted and valued connections.

Because it’s not who you know—it’s who knows you.

Your turn, what are you favorite networking tips?

Content contributed by Sarah Mote, MOSourceLinkMOSourceLink is a proud affiliate of U.S.SourceLink, America’s largest resource network for entrepreneurs.