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Power networking builds; thoughtless networking destroys. Visibility in person and online can attract customers, supporters and affiliates. But the wrong actions or the wrong communications can at best make your efforts useless. More likely, the unknowing steps you take can damage your business and tarnish your personal reputation. Beyond the basics, networking adheres to unwritten guidelines which can set you apart, for better or worse.

Tips for Power Networking:

  • Don’t network for quantity. Network for quality. Handing out twenty cards in a crowded room is a futile exercise. Having a focused conversation with one or two people can have a far greater impact for you and your business.
  • Don’t sell before you connect. Whether in person or via email, “Hey, do I have an unbelievable deal for you!” is an immediate hatchet to your reputation. People will consider buying from you once they know you and have established a relationship.
  • Don’t take without giving. If someone might be a good referral source for you, find what you can do to reciprocate. Referrals are always valued. If you are not in a position to offer referrals immediately, you may offer information on a new networking group or introductions to potential strategic partners from your circle of friends.
  • Don’t ambush. Set meetings with the intent of building a mutually beneficial relationship. Focus on how you can genuinely help them, before you explore how they might help you. Do not launch your sales pitch; a networking meeting is not a sales call.
  • Do not suggest, “Hey, let me buy you a cup of coffee, and let me pick your brain for a few ideas.” This is totally unprofessional. A networking contact may offer to meet and give assistance on an informal and complimentary basis. This is a gracious action, and should be appreciated. Asking for free help is not acceptable; instead, ask about and be willing to pay for assistance. In some cases, a barter might be a win for both of you.

Power networking is an art. It is the act of building genuine relationships with others in business, for mutual benefit. Smart networking is giving. The most effective networkers are those who are focused on truly helping others, without expecting return. Network to pay it forward. Look to help the other person, without expecting a return. Networking builds relationships. Build relationships, and build your business and career.