Networking is extremely important. By effectively building a network of colleagues, business associates and more, you are ensuring that whenever you need help in finding a new client, you can call upon your network to assist you. It is these established relationshipswhich can make you stand out against the competition.

But in order to make it work for your business there are some things an effective networker needs to remember. Here are some of them.

Go to events with the main intention of helping others out

People enjoy doing business with those that they trust and like. The only way to build that trust is to engage with others in a helpful way. Yes, trust takes a long time to build, but insincerity takes even longer to overcome. Once you’ve developed a relationship and created a bond, then you can move on to negotiating for favours and asking for help. After all, the role of every business is to find people they can help using their products and services. When you preoccupy yourself with finding people who need you, then this qualifies as “networking to find out how you can help” – which really does make a lot of [business]sense.

Engage outside your niche and market

Who knows how that gentleman farmer can help out a savvy businessman like you? Sometimes the connections unexpected people have will surprise you. The rule in networking events is – you’ll never really know what you’ll stumble on with a seemingly useless conversation. Connect with people on a variety of levels from a wide range of areas. By growing your network outside of the usual areas you will be more valuable to people that are in your immediate industry. The people you work with have personalities and multiple interests, right? With a broad network you can be the person that connects people across industries.

Be prepared, but look relaxed confident

When you reach out to a prospect, have in mind what you want to say, but don’t obsess about it. While the delay built in to most social network communication makes it easier to “think before you speak,” this isn’t possible in a face-to-face encounter. Prepare an elevator speech. In about 20 to 30 seconds, be able to answer the question “what do you do?” Tell how you do your job, what makes you different from others and what your unique value proposition is. Whether you are competing for business, looking for referrals or seeking a new job, make it easy for people to understand what you do and remember you. Master small talk. Before a networking function, brush up on current events. Being conversant in the news of the day, the financial markets, sports or anything related to the group you are meeting with will enable you to engage in necessary idle banter.