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26 Entrepreneurs Explain the Best Traits of a Successful Networker

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Your network is your net-worth. The phrase is said over and over again encouraging entrepreneurs and business owners to cast their “net” and meet as many people as possible. Networking is a big reason for success for business owners. There’s even local groups like BNIs that are built around networking. Being able to increase your presence is very important but we wanted to ask entrepreneurs and business owners what they have seen as the most successful traits of networkers.

#1 – Followup is Key

Image Credit: Vanessa Denha Garmo

I believe follow up is key. I suggest this to clients as well. I always write on the back of a card where I met someone and a few bullet points of what we talked about so when I follow up with an email or note, I can refer to the conversation and where we met. I might comment about the event and ask about something they mentioned such as a business problem or even something personal like their pet. Business is about relationships. This is also true in media relations which I am involved in as well. People do business with people they like and trust. You have to get to know people first. You do this by a sincere follow up to a first meeting.

Thanks to Vanessa Denha Garmo, Denha Media Group!

#2 – Things Come Natural

Image Credit: Paige Arnof-Fenn

People always tell me I am great at networking which I find strange. I think what makes someone effective at networking happens to coincide with things that just come more naturally to me. I grew up in the South so maybe it is both nature and nurture in my case. These traits include: (1) Being naturally curious so you ask a lot of question, people love talking about themselves. (2) Being a good listener so you can ask them more as follow up. (3) Being warm and friendly, smile, be the first to introduce yourself. (4) Send a hand written thank you note or e-mail referencing something you discussed or including an article you think they might enjoy right after you first meet. (5) Make an introduction for them to meet someone in your network who they would find interesting.  When you stop trying to sell and just share what you know and love networking is fun! People put too much emphasis on trying to be interesting instead of being interested in the other person.

Thanks to Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls!

#3 – Confidence, Charm & Resilience

Image Credit: David Bennett

The main traits that I have successfully used to network are confidence, charm, and resilience. When I network, I have to keep these in mind to be my best. Confidence is necessary to initiate the conversation or put your best foot forward in any situation. You have to believe in your product and believe in yourself. Charm is necessary to translate whatever you are selling into something that pulls at human emotion. People enjoy networking with and engaging likable, funny, and interesting people. Your personality is just as important – if not more so – than what you are promoting. And, finally resilience is important. Rejection in any area is tough, and resilience is the courage and strength to continue even if things don’t go your way.

Thanks to David Bennett, The Popular Man!

#4 – Practical Intelligence

Image Credit: Al Torres

A successful networker not only knows how to hold a great conversation but also knows who to hold that conversation with. They know who to talk to and how to talk to them, also known as practical intelligence.
As Malcom Gladwell puts it, practical intelligence is knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect. Great networkers go into conversations with a goal in mind, whether that goal is to have an intellectually stimulating conversation, sell a product, or to simply listen. Do your research ahead of time and have a plan and you’ll be off to a great start.

Thanks to Al Torres, SummitSync!

#5 – Willingness to Help Others

Image Credit: Amanda Thomas

The number one most valuable trait that will make or break your networking efforts is your willingness to help others. If you come across as someone who’s only interested in self promotion, you won’t be able to build meaningful relationships. Help people with their problems, and your networking success will skyrocket!

Thanks to Amanda Thomas, Directive Consulting!

#6 – Practice

Image Credit: Evan Harris

Networking is an art, and in order to become better at it, you have to practice. Many people underestimate the value of sitting in front of your mirror and practicing how you’ll introduce yourself or what it is that your company does. If you get nervous or flustered in a networking setting, this age-old trick will help to calm your nerves so you can easily get out what you want to say and hopefully make a connection. Another important aspect of networking that people forget is establishing next steps. Too often, both parties leave the conversation without a clear understanding of who is going to follow up, when, and by what means. Even if you don’t plan on working together in the near future, cement the relationship by mentioning that if the opportunity for collaboration arises, you will shoot them an email with specifics. Ultimately, the best networkers are the ones that appear confident and well-spoken and those that solidify the connection with clearly defined next steps, so to perfect the art of networking, it’s important to practice these traits.

Thanks to Evan Harris, SD Equity Partners!

#7 – Open to New Relationships

Image Credit: Dailisha Eve Rodriguez

The best traits of a successful networker are to be open to new relationships. Networking is not about numbers but rather relationships. Great networkers prepare prior to an event with a clear game plan of who they want to meet. Often times, I network at events catered to my target market. This increases the chances of meeting someone that will directly impact the mission of our organization. Having multiple business cards with no true building of a connection is counterproductive. Feel the room out, have fun and be yourself. Meeting just one new person at an event is a huge success.

Thanks to Dailisha Eve Rodriguez, Hey There Beautiful Inc.!

#8 – Thoughtful, Listen, Communicate, Empathy & Self-Awareness

Image Credit: Jennifer Barnes

You should aim to be thoughtful, listen to others, communicate openly, have empathy towards others and be self-aware. Avoid being fake and telling people what they want to hear. Be honest, genuine and assertive with people and tell them how you feel in a professional and respectful manner. When networking at an event, you should ask people questions about themselves and their company. Spending a conversation talking about yourself isn’t a good way to get to know someone and build relationships. For those looking for a job, networking is a means to finding your next opportunity. You never know who you are going to meet and what doors that person may open for you. Try not to be nervous in a room full of people. Find a simple way to start a conversation, such as asking about what the person is drinking or complimenting their shoes or jewelry.

Thanks to Jennifer Barnes, Pro Back Office!

#9 – Flexible & Customize an Elevator Pitch

Image Credit: Sacha Ferrandi

The best trait of a successful networker is the ability to be flexible and customize an elevator pitch to each person they connect with. While having a well thought out pitch is important for adequately expressing oneself and their abilities, you must also be able to adapt your speech to better connect with individuals. Networking is all about building connections to create a mutually beneficial relationship, so it makes absolute sense that you’d want to understand your audience. A certain type of academic jargon can be used when networking with a University professor, but will probably be inappropriate when networking with “your average Joe.” Knowing your audience and how to relate to them on a personal level will ground your networking in genuineness and create legitimate and mutually beneficial relationships.

Thanks to Sacha Ferrandi, Source Capital Funding, Inc.!

#10 – Genuine Interest

Image Credit: Matt Bowman

I believe a core trait of a successful networker is a genuine interest in the lives, opinions and interests of other people. These are the things that people WANT to talk about, and if you get a natural kick out of learning about them, you’ll find the relationships almost build themselves! The only thing that needs to be built into the process is a very deliberate exchange of contact information. Otherwise that chance encounter will be a 1-time event, rather than the beginning of a longer term network.

Thanks to Matt Bowman, Thrive Internet Marketing!

#11 – Network to Learn

Image Credit: Ilene Marcus

As a business founder, I do a lot of networking. The key phrase that gets overlooking when discussing networking is the value – what is a good conversation worth to you? When you network with this goal in mind, you will be professional, appropriate and relevant. Network to Learn. I am wary of people who network because they need a new job or some other specific outcome. How about networking to learn. Learn what others are engaged in, how they got where they are and what makes them tick. When you network from the perspective of learning, you take the emphasis away from yourself. This not only opens you up to see the world in another light, it’s much more enjoyable for the random people you pony up to. Networking should always be mutually beneficial. Real conversations are highly valued.

Thanks to Ilene Marcus, Aligned Workplace!

#12 – 3 Things

Image Credit: Kevin Willett

The Three Traits of Great Networkers are: (1) They focus on providing value to others – the best networkers follow the golden rule of networking and that is to help others before you help yourself. This one mind shift will greatly increase the results you will receive from networking. (2) They follow up – I always say if you don’t follow up, you were never there. Many people make the mistake of assuming because they met someone at a networking event, and exchanged cards with them, that the person will call them when they have a need for their services. This is often not the case. Meeting someone at a networking event is simply the first step in building a referral relationship. (3) They don’t keep score – The best networkers know not to keep score. Please don’t think that people owe you because you referred a client to them. Always focus on helping as many people as you can and believe in karma.

Thanks to Kevin Willett, New England B2B Networking Group!

#13 – Look for Ways to Help Others

Image Credit: Suzanne Hayen

I’ve found that successful networkers look for ways to help others. An easy and quick way to develop a relationship with someone is by offering something of value to them; this may be an introduction to someone they would like to meet, a great resource that will help them with their work, or information on a topic they’re interested in. They’ll be appreciative of the help, and will likely want to pursue a mutually-beneficial relationship with you.

Thanks to Suzanne Hayen, Let’s Be Chefs!

#14 – Truly Care About Others

Image Credit: Monica Rivera

I’ve heard people say I hate networking more often than I can count, and my first thought is always then you’re doing it wrong. You see, many people equate networking with selling, but a successful networker knows it isn’t about selling at all. You have to truly CARE about other people and see them as a human being rather than a dollar sign. A mentor of mine told me never to start a conversation with What do you do?, but rather to ask someone to tell you about themselves. Most will start with the elevator pitch anyways, and it’s your job to steer the conversation to the personal and form a true bond. When you connect over something like a charity you’re both passionate about, a similar upbringing and family values or some other mutual interest, that relationship becomes infinitely more valuable in it’s authenticity. And always ask how you can help someone or who you can connect them with. It’s in our human nature to reciprocate when someone adds value to our lives, and so trust me when I say you’ll find yourself on the receiving end of both gratitude and that type of reciprocity.

Thanks to Monica Rivera!

#15 – Get Creative & Go Outside the Box

Image Credit: Deborah Sweeney

Get creative and go outside of the box when you network! If your startup just got off the ground, rather than pass out business cards at a mixer, bring along trial-size samples of your product attached to your business card. Pass them out together so people can get familiar with what you have to offer.

Thanks to Deborah Sweeney, MyCorporation.com!

#16 – Outgoing

Image Credit: Justin Zastrow

A good networker is first and foremost outgoing. Whether you are in introvert or extrovert being able to feel confident in approaching people is key. Being able to listen to others is also a very important behavior to possess. People like to talk about themselves so you need to indulge that side of almost every human. Conversation comprehension, or being able to recall information about people is a major player in the art of networking. People really appreciate someone who remembers a previous interaction.

Thanks to Justin Zastrow, Smart Armor!

#17 – Honest Bond

Image Credit: Debbie Ellis

I have tried lots of networking, women’s groups, BNI, local business owners, etc. For me, I like to really connect with people and build a real relationship. With an honest bond, it’s easy to refer business to someone. The flip side are people who show up once and add you to their email list with out permission. And, those who follow up to connect via social media, and they share photos while at a competitor’s establishment. Really caring and wanting to help has helped me do well in networking circles with varied people.

Thanks to Debbie Ellis, Canvas Roadshow!

#18 – Connectors

Image Credit: Maddy Osman

The best networkers aren’t always trying to push themselves and their business on other people. Instead, they are connectors that are constantly looking for opportunities to bring together the people in their network that they respect and trust. They know that networking is a long-term strategy, and are just as excited about making a connection as they are about eventually doing business together.

Thanks to Maddy Osman, The Blogsmith!

#19 – Combination of Science, Art and Heart

Image Credit: Camille Preston

The most successful networkers look to give before you get. If you enter every conversation with the question – how can I help? In what ways can I add value to this person? You will instantly have a genuine curiosity. You will also be listening deeply as you look to understand what is important to this individual and how can you add value. Time and again, when you help someone else out they not only remember, they want to help you out. (Reciprocity Principle) Great networkers are also genuine. If you don’t understand their business, ask. If you genuinely don’t care about them or their business – be gracious, wish them well, move on. We live in a very small, very connected world, so do be sure to wish them well. Lastly, great networkers have a deep connection, and then move on. If you are there to network, you don’t want to spend the entire event with one person. Ideally you exchange contact information or take a moment to capture the things you can do for them – writing ideas down on the back of their card or in your phone – so that you don’t forget, and can be fully present in your next interaction.

Thanks to Camille Preston, Create More Flow!

#20 – Empathy

Image Credit: Sid Bharath

Empathy is a must-have trait for any networker. Whether your ultimate goal is to find a business partner, hire or get hired, or promote your business, being empathetic and really caring about the people you interact with will take you a lot further than thinking about just yourself. Think about it this way, you know those people who talk non-stop who you always want to avoid at networking events? Well, that’s you without empathy. Be interested in others, listen carefully, put yourself in their shoes, and you’ll have a partner or customer for life.

Thanks to Sid Bharath, Thinkific!

#21 – Getting Personal

Image Credit: Kelley Buttrick

As a solo business owner/freelancer, networking is vital to my success. My networking tips all center around getting personal. (1) If you feel awkward, you will come off awkwardly. Try to start conversations around something other than business, and make it about them, not you. (2) Ask someone a question that has nothing to do with their business or yours that you are genuinely interested in knowing the answer to like, I love that dress! Did you find it locally? or I see you went with a Bloody Mary. How is it? or Wow! Did you hit that traffic on Main St.? It was crazy! Know any good shortcuts? (3) There’s always time to get into business talk after the event. Use networking events to make personal connections. Is someone new to the area? Maybe follow up with an email list of local restaurants and service providers and make sure your signature line has a link to your website. (4) Avoid the elevator speech as it will most definitely come off like a rehearsed elevator speech. If you have gotten to know someone a bit and he/she asks what you do, tailor your short response to the What do you do? question to what you know about him/her. For example, Well, as a sales rep, I’m sure you spend lots of time driving around from client to client. Do you listen to the radio? Well, one of the things I do is voice radio spots and radio imaging projects. Oh, you listen to Pandora? They are actually one of my bigger clients. I’ve been on their voiceover roster for years. (5) Getting to know someone on a personal level and being sincerely interested in knowing them will take the awkward factor out of the equation when networking. Save the business talk for the follow up email, coffee or lunch.

Thanks to Kelley Buttrick, KB Voiceovers!

#22 – 7 Things

Networking in simple words is “to connect”. Yes, it includes how you connect, the way you connect, how differently people feel in your company etc. And we know networking is one of the significant areas in business world. It is the basic need in any organization to connect and interact with others to exchange information and develop professional as well as social contacts, in short we can say that to develop our formal and informal contacts. Following are the best traits of networker: (1) Just Build before your need – Everything you start tomorrow has to be planned today. So, if you need a network you have to plan it and then start building it, so that at the correct time, you will be able to use it. (2) Follow Through – This is focused on integrity. Networkers appreciate working with somebody who does what they say they will. For a great referral partner, look for someone, who respects the value of referrals and follow through the contacts you give them. (3) Be Interesting – You have to show interest while you are talking to others. You have to show that you are actively taking part in the conversation and want to connect more and want to meet further. (4) Listening Skills – As it is already said that you have to actively take part in the conversation. Good Listening Skills will help you to have smooth conversation. Listening Power help us to see things differently and in different or major perspective. (5) Never Eat Alone – If you need a network you have to build it. So, just to build a network you have to take part in informal activities in your organization and eating with others is one of them. So, take every opportunity to start a topic or sharing something good. (6) Positivity – The one other thing is positivity. I just know that I myself never want to interact with someone who is always sad and negative. I think no one wants to. Everyone try to be happy and positivity. So, you have to bring positivity around you & your network. (7) Remember Names- One of the coolest ways to start your network is to make people feel important by taking their names and remember them till your next meet. Yes, this will definitely build your network.

Thanks to Guriya Chhatwal!

#23 – 3 Traits

Image Credit: Victoria Heckstall

A successful networker is someone who is not only a people person, but they have unique ideas, aren’t afraid to fail, and have thick skin. To be successful at networking you have to be able to think outside the box so you can stand out and be interesting. You want to make sure that you are leaving lasting footprints in the people that you interact with brains. Additionally, you have to know that you aren’t going to be everyone’s cup up tea – hence not being afraid to fail and having thick skin.

Thanks to Victoria Heckstall, Unique Words!

#24 – 3 Things

Image Credit: Martha Schmitz

At the Mentat, we have decades of experience hiring, managing and mentoring hundreds of prospective job candidates and employees to help them make the most of their career. With so much experience working with professionals in many fields, we have often had the opportunity to support people with networking, a key facet of career success. In our experience, a successful networker is: (1) Prepared: Arrive to networking events ready to talk about your experience and with knowledge of the types of organizations and people you’ll encountering. Have a concise, tailored elevator pitch and business cards at the ready to make the most of a short interaction and to prepare for future meeting. (2) Goal-oriented: Know what you want to ask people you meet in networking events – do you want a coffee to learn more about what it’s like inside a particular organization? Do you want to learn about opportunities in the field? Do you want to find people who work in related jobs who can help you understand what skills you need to get to where they are? Having a plan and working towards it will help you make the most of these spaces and avoid any misplaced effort on your part or theirs. (3) Engaged: Be confident, look the person in the eye, listen to what they have to say, and ask relevant questions. This will help you get more from the situation, as well as make it clear that you’re interested in learning from them.

Thanks to Martha Schmitz, Thementat.com!

#25 – Quick-Thinking

Being able to think on your feet is a skill that will help you in many aspects of your professional life, and networking is no different. If you can quickly absorb and digest information and then immediately come back with an insightful anecdote, you are set to dominate any networking situation.

Thanks to Jay Labelle, The Cover Guy!

#26 – Take Meetings with Everyone You Can

Image Credit: Kelsey Doorey

Networking! It’s essential. One of the best traits of a successful networker is the willingness to take meetings with everyone you can, because you never know where it will lead. Back in the pre-beta days of Vow To Be Chic, I was exhausted after a long week of work, but forced myself to attend a pitch event around the corner from my coworking space. I met an unassuming reporter who was interested in what I was doing at Vow. I chatted with him for a while, having no idea that the next day my story would appear on Yahoo’s homepage! When I came into work the next day, I discovered I had 25,000 emails from interested brides and another 15,000 emails came in later that week! That one article launched Vow into the public eye and drove real customers to the business.

Thanks to Kelsey Doorey, Vow To Be Chic!

What do you think are the best tips for professional networking?

About Gresham Harkless Jr.

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Gresham Harkless is a Media Consultant for Blue 16 Media and the Blogger-in-Chief for CEO Blog Nation. CEO Blog Nation is a community of blogs for entrepreneurs and business owners. Started in much the same way as most small businesses, CEO Blog Nation captures the essence of entrepreneurship by allowing entrepreneurs and business owners to have a voice. CEO Blog Nation provides news, information, events and even startup business tips for entrepreneurs, startups and business owners to succeed.
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