7 Best Practices for Networking That Actually Work

Your network is your net worth.

When people think about networking, they imagine themselves walking around a big event, shaking hands and exchanging business cards, with the hope that sometime in the not-so-distant future an incredible chance will fall right into their lap.

photo-1522202176988-66273c2fd55f.jpg

That’s not really networking .

The best networking I have ever done has been the result of genuine curiosity, and usually in environments most people would never use for networking.

The truth is, people don’t like “being networked.” Nobody likes the idea of shaking hands with someone and there being this underlying expectation of, “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” It just feels contrived.

Friends do business with friends.

I make an effort to make genuine connections with the people I interact with. I want to know what their dreams are, what they hope to build or share with people  — and then I want to see if there’s anything I can do to help them.

If something comes back to me as a result of it, great. If not, that is fine. We’re friends.

1. Make friends, not contacts.

What I am proposing is that you genuinely open yourself up to other people and connect emotionally.

Share your goals, share your aspirations, share your hopes and dreams, and what challenges you’re currently facing — and then let them do the same.

2. Listen.

People are so used to being met with the feeling of “I’m waiting for you to finish speaking so I can talk again." It is astounding how much people will divulge when you show them you are genuinely interested in and listening to what they’re saying.

3. Tell your story

I can’t tell you how many people I meet who have the most incredible zero-to-champion stories, and then I go to their website and it looks and sounds and acts like everyone else’s in their space.

Tell your story — not the story you think everyone wants to hear.

4. Ask for an introduction

If you want to meet someone in particular, ask the people you know if they know anyone who knows the person — and then ask them to make an introduction. At the end of the day, a warm lead is always better than a cold lead.

5. Give, give, give, give, and then give more — and then ask

Whenever I meet someone new, my first thought is not, “What can I get out of this person?”

My first thought is, “How can I help this person?”

When people immediately ask for something from someone they just met, a very different precedent for the relationship is established. Immediately, the other party knows that they are nothing more than a steppingstone — and nobody likes to feel like that.

Give first.

Whenever you help someone reach a goal, make a connection, overcome an obstacle, etc., you are doing so many important things for that relationship. You are establishing a friendship. You are showing your willingness to invest in him or her first. You are showing your value. And you are building trust.

6. Keep your word

Especially in business your word and reputation is arguably your greatest asset. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you promise to follow up, follow up. If you close a deal, make sure that deal is upheld to the highest standard.

7. Introduce yourself

And finally, the most simple networking hack of them all.

Introduce yourself.

While a referral or an introduction can be great, at the end of the day it’s all about you grabbing life by the horns and saying, “This is who I am and this is what I do.”

At the gym.

At the pool.

At the club.

At whatever event.

Introduce yourself.

Real networking is just about being open to life and the people who cross your path. Real networking is about expanding your friend group. Real networking means putting your genuine self out there — not wearing your sales suit trying to sell everyone.