Repeat after me: I network therefore I am successful. Simple, right.
“Adding a new chapter to the research that cemented the phrase “six degrees of separation” into the language, scientists at Facebook and the University of Milan reported on Monday that the average number of acquaintances separating any two people in the world was not six but 4.74,” according to The New York Times.
Yet, it can feel impossible to make that all important connection for your next business deal. Actually, it is less important that five, six, or seven degrees separate us from our goals – rather than the simple fact that you can always get closer with networking.
Becoming a Master Networker
Successful entrepreneurs are masters at networking. Ask any successful person and they will tell you stories about key connections they have made to reach their goals. They understand the value in their networks. According to a recent survey by Dell and small business community Manta, one in five small business owners made networking their top priority when they first launched their startups.
So, how can you get networking right? First, here’s a look at six networking habits to avoid:
- Being the loudest person in the room. Being loud and obnoxious is a sure way to be remembered for the wrong reason.
- Handing out business cards like there is no tomorrow. Most business cards end up in the nearest trash can.
- Sending obnoxious emails asking to pick peoples’ brains. When you follow up after a networking event offer help instead of asking for favors.
- Shaking every hand at business functions. Your mission is to make a few new connections and nurture some existing ones.
- Being an expert at everything. Only offer help when you can really help. If someone needs help with something outside of your field, try to connect the individual with the right person.
- Focusing on numbers. The power of your network is not about its size. It is about targeting the right people.
Now, that you have a handle on what not to do, here is a look at four essential networking habits of successful people:
- Follow up. When you meet someone for the first time there is no time to really get to know each other. After your initial contact follow up. Remind the other person when and where you have met. Mention something memorable about the other person or the event you have shared.
- Being useful. The best networkers understand that being useful is the best way to build solid relationships. Can you help the person in any way? Can you make an introduction or recommendation? Offer to help, but only if you are going to follow through. There is nothing worse than empty promises.
- Quality not quantity. You may have 5000 LinkedIn connections, but do you really know those people? Networking is about building quality relationships. A network of 50 people could open more doors for you than 5000 Facebook likes.
- Stay in touch. Networking is more about nurturing relationships. Just like friendships networks take time to develop. Does this mean you have to ping people daily? Of course not, but you have to stay connected. A few sentences a few times a year would work. If you read something that reminds you of the other person, reach out and send an email or a tweet.
Networking is never easy. It is always difficult to reach out to perfect strangers. But, the reality is that human beings were built to connect with other people. However awkward you may feel go for it. If you are at a business function, walk up to anyone and start talking. Chances are they are going to be relieved that you made the first move. Think of it this way, you have made someone feel comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. It works.
Networking is the most effective and least expensive way to build your business. Remember that average people do too little networking, and successful people make a habit of it. We are all busy, but you have to make time for networking.
This article has been edited and condensed.
George Meszaros is a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Success Harbor. Success Harbor is dedicated to document the entrepreneurial journey through interviews, original research, and unique content. Connect with @successharbor on Twitter.