Networking can be a brilliant way of meeting new contacts and finding new business.

If it’s done incorrectly, though, it could start to hinder your marketing.

When it comes to networking like a pro, there are golden rules we should always follow.  They should be written in stone, so we’re calling them our 10 commandments:

Thou shall find out who you’re going to be meeting

Do a little background research before networking sessions. Take a look at their websites, blogs, and LinkedIn profiles. That should give you some ideas of potential subjects to talk about, and whether there may be any potential for working together. Go into the sessions with a plan.

Thou shalt not sell, sell, sell

We’ve all seen people doing this and it’s really off-putting. Fellow networkers will physically back away from you if this happens. If people don’t get to know you, like you, and then trust you, they won’t buy from you. Behave like a human being. Talk to people and get to know them. The more interested you are in them, the more likely it is they’ll reciprocate

Thou shalt not dump people for a ‘better prospect’

This is awful to watch – two people having a good chat, someone else walks in the room and suddenly one party gets unceremoniously ‘dumped’. Think about it – you never know who will become important to your business. That ‘dumped’ person might be the best friend or partner of someone with a lucrative contract. Want to bid for it? That person is going to tell their friend or partner you were rude. It won’t do you any favours. There are always polite ways to move the conversation on – suggest a one-to-one meeting later as time’s short, for example.

Thou shalt not thrust your business card at someone the moment you meet them

It’s better to make some introductions, ask about them and their business, and after a few minutes of conversation, ask for their business card. They will then ask you for yours. It’s a far less in-your-face way of swapping cards.

Thou shall arrange follow-up meetings

One of the primary goals of any networking should be to arrange follow-up meetings to make better contacts. Set yourself the goal of getting a one-to-one chat with at least one new contact after every session. It’s tough to get to know people in a crowded networking group. Make the time for meetings and you’ll reap the benefits.

Thou shall ask questions to build trust

How we talk to new contacts at networking is important. If we adopt a technique used by journalists, we can start to build trust quite quickly with those we meet. Ask open questions: how they got into their business and why; where they spend most of their time; who their customers are; when they’ll grow their business; what they offer. This makes the other person feel you’re interested in them, and as they answer you, they’ll give you lots of clues about how best to talk to them.

Thou shalt not get lots of business from one visit

Networking isn’t a quick fix. You should be in it for the long haul. It can take a number of sessions and months of getting to know people before you get referrals.

Thou shall be helpful 

If the mantra used to be ‘always be selling’, it should now be ‘always be helpful’. Building a feeling of reciprocity is a powerful way of building relationships. If you refer someone or help in another way, contacts won’t forget it. They’ll be more likely to refer to you in the future.

Thou shall use social media to keep in touch

LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are all great ways of keeping in touch with people you meet while networking. Follow them on social media and they’ll follow you back. They’re a good audience for your social media posts, sharing your blogs and videos, and any events you publicise. Social media helps them feel part of your tribe – and helps you to feel part of theirs. It’s far easier to sell to an existing customer or contact than to go out and sell to a new one.

Thou shall ask contacts to join your email list

Your email database is a great way to keep in touch with prospects. Ask those you meet to sign up, or if you can sign them up. Most people say yes.

Follow our 10 commandments, and your networking will be a happy and productive experience.

Want to learn more? Try one of these networking books:

How To Win Friends And Influence People In The 21st Century

Avoiding Networking Disconnect 

The FT Guide To Business Networking