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WNC Business

7 Tips for Networking

Apr 03, 2023 06:48AM ● By Bill Gilliland

Tip #1. Network Genuinely

When attempting to build trust, credibility and business relationships, you need to present yourself in a genuine light. You should only attend networking events if you genuinely wish to help others. If you attend networking events or situations with the intention to sell, you will come off as self-serving and fail to connect with other attendees, wasting your time and theirs in the process.

Tip #2. Define Your Goals

Do not arbitrarily select a networking event. Before you go anywhere, take a moment to figure out what you are hoping to accomplish through networking. Different networking events have different focuses, like education or database growth. Knowing what aligns with your goals is the key to getting the most out of networking. Remember, networking is about finding prospective clients and referral sources. If you are at a networking event, it is likely the people in the room are out in your community and know a lot of people. 

Tip #3. Visit Multiple Groups

Like when buying a car, settling on the first networking group you stumble across is usually unwise. I suggest going to sites like or as there are heaps of new events and networking events added daily. Make sure you subscribe to all your Chamber Of Commerce’s newsletter lists as they often have regular events. Go to a Toastmaster evening or charity golf tournaments. When creating your 90-day plan (if you have strong goals to increase your client numbers), make sure you put “Attend a new networking event every week” on your list, that way you will meet an entirely new group of people in a truly leveraged way. Once you find a networking group that works for you, give it your full attention.

Tip #4. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Successful networking hinges upon your ability to ask the people you interact with a series of open-ended questions, as opposed to simple yes-or-no questions. If you rely solely on yes-or-no questions, your networking efforts will fail to encourage any sort of meaningful dialogue. Furthermore, an open-ended question conveys more sincere interest in someone. Questions like “How is the recession treating you and your business?” is a great question to ask once rapport is made.

Tip # 5 – Make sure to Exchange Cards

Follow the question in Tip #4 by a conversational response such as, “Yeah, I hear what you are saying. A client of mine last year faced exactly the same thing – but we were able to turn that around. He’s doing really well despite the economy. Never know, I might be able to help you too. I wouldn’t mind popping in and checking out your business. Can I have your business card?” Do you notice how the language is conversational and non-threatening? I have been to too many networking groups where people are so stiff and intense. Don’t be so serious! If you can get a complete stranger to laugh at a stiff business networking event, you’ll get the card, no worries.

Tip #6. Understand Your Business

In order to maximize your networking efforts, you must have a clear understanding of what makes your business unique. For ActionCOACH, “I help business owners make more profit when they are out of the business, rather than in it” is a great introduction. Most business owners are going to be curious enough to say “Huh? How do you do that?” Clearly understanding what sets your business apart from others and how your business can solve the problems of other businesses is key to a well-rounded conversation.

Tip #7. Follow-up with People

After successfully connecting with someone, you need to follow-up with them through drip marketing campaigns. Send a postcard (people have forgotten the art of the handwritten note). Shoot them an email. Look for them on Facebook and LinkedIn. Don't just call them and ask, "So, are you ready to do some business together?" Building trust and credibility takes time. By taking this approach, you will not only put more prospects in the sales funnel, you will also help nurture your future sales. A good email might be “Hey, I was thinking about your business the other day... I wanted to pop in under the guise of a customer and see it for myself. Sort of like a free secret shop. I might find something that is costing you money or could make you some more. I’ll report back with my findings. Do you mind?”

Bill Gilliland is a five-time business owner, speaker, and business coach. He can be reached at or 828-348-1787.