Networking is about building social capital, it is so much more than exchanging business cards or sitting next to someone at the dinner table. Growing your business by networking and referrals makes good sense, and doing so isn’t easy. But then, like most things that are worthwhile, networking takes patience, guts and strategy.

Below are 7 things you must do if you want to be an excellent networker.

Develop a networking strategy. Savvy networkers have a strategy. Before they attend any event or engage in any opportunity, they consider the basics of why, what, who and how. Why are they networking? What do they hope to accomplish? Who will they be exposed to? How can they help those whom they will meet and how will the relationships they develop be mutually beneficial?

Work the room. Learn how to work a room, how to move in and out of groups and how to approach people. These skills are vital to making networking encounters profitable and productive. Otherwise you’re just standing at the edge of a room waiting for people to come and talk to you. How else do you expect people to trust you, if you don’t have the guts or drive to make the first move?

Shut Up and Listen There’s nothing more annoying than someone who talks too much about themselves. Show genuine interest for the people you meet. Ask them about their lives. Find something you have in common with them and you’ll have found a great, fun topic to talk about. Great networkers have great listening skills, so that when someone else is talking, their focus is completely on that person and that individual feels that they are the most important person in the room at that moment in time. Great networkers do little things like repeat statements you have made to strengthen the connection and ask powerful questions to get you to open up and extend the conversation.

Be a connector. How valuable are you? How much are you worth knowing? Despite your knowledge and expertise, you can make yourself stand out in your business community by being a great introducer and connector. That means exploring people’s networks and finding out both who they know and who they want to know.

Choose the best networking events. Most networking groups are not effective. Their members are there to GET something and most people have nothing to GIVE. Don’t surround yourself with people who are where you are. Surround yourself with people who are where you want to be. You’ll learn more, make more valuable connections and have a much better time. I like paid events much better than free events, because the audience is always of much higher quality.

Follow up. This is the biggest mistake of most networkers, because approximately 90% of networkers don’t follow up. They just collect a bunch of business cards and fail to do anything with them. Don’t make this mistake. Remember that the fortune is in the follow up. Whether it’s a follow up email, phone call, engaging on social media or a face-to-face meet up, if they’re worth talking to, they’re worth following up!

Keep in touch. You won’t sell them on the first meeting or phone call. But you made a connection, you felt they were worth following up and you thought you could help them down the line. So stay connected down that line and find reasons to keep in touch. Otherwise when they need what you do, they’ll buy from somebody else.