Of course, networking isn’t the be-all and end-all of business, but it certainly makes success a lot easier: especially in sectors where word of mouth is key to getting clients and product sales. Not only will the ability to network help you get into contact with new customers, but it may also lead you to new opportunities, and help you climb the corporate ladder a lot faster than if you have to do it alone. The key to networking is the ability to impress on a tight schedule, and to build relationships which are mutually beneficial; in essence, you need to sell yourself as being someone worth knowing. If you are new to networking and trying to find ways to impress, then here are five simple tips to help you make the right connections.

    Actively look for networking opportunities

    Networking events won’t just fall in your lap, so if you are serious about finding contacts, then you’ll need to actively seek out ways to meet people. If you work in an office, then try and keep in the loop about all of the upcoming events which you could attend; while these occasions might not provide the most interesting way to spend a Friday night, they may be lucrative networking opportunities. You can also make new contacts through business-specific networking sites, such as LinkedIn.

    Practice your pitch

    While networking is a little bit like sales, in the sense that you are trying to build a relationship for your own personal benefit, the key difference is subtlety. You need to find a way to tread the fine line between being confident and actively promoting yourself, and not coming across as arrogant and self-obsessed.

    Dress the part

    First impressions are incredibly important, which means that even if you’ve found an event and practiced what you’ve got to say, no one is going to give you the time of day if you don’t look the part. Not all business events are going to be black tie, but that doesn’t mean that you can wear shorts to a more casual event. Try and read the situation and work out what will be the most appropriate look for the occasion.

    Have a business card at the ready

    Though you might make a good impression verbally and aesthetically, you don’t want to fall at the last hurdle by having to hurriedly scribble down your name and contact information on a napkin using a borrowed pen. If you make your own business cards, you will not only seem like a professional and well put together businessperson, but it also means that your new contacts will easily be able to pass on your business details to prospective clients if they feel so inclined.

    Keep in touch

    Meeting people once isn’t enough to consider them as being a part of your network; in fact, it’s not even enough to refer to someone as an associate.  If you want to have a beneficial relationship with the people that you network with, then it requires you to take the time and effort to maintain the connection. Networking is about give and take, so you can’t only call on your contacts when you need their assistance.