Networking is about establishing mutually beneficial relationships, not a contest to see how many business cards you can collect. And to secure those mutually beneficial relationships, you need to be strategic about the people you meet. Not everyone who crosses your path will necessarily qualify for that role.
Here are some networking tips:
Join the right groups: Don’t focus on legal groups or groups where a lot of attorneys gather (unless you get a lot of your business from other attorneys). You need to go where the decision makers meet, not the gatekeepers.
Join elite groups: Groups that cost several hundred dollars a year are better than cheap groups; groups that require a member to sponsor you are even better.
Remember your primary purpose: Remember your primary purpose in going to networking events is NOT to get new clients. Your primary purpose is to build a relationship with potential referral sources and to offer yourself as a referral source to them. When you understand the real reason for going to networking events, it takes all the pressure to perform off and keeps you focused on a more productive purpose—building relationships with people you could help and who may also be of help to you.
Ask open-ended questions: Use the 80/20 rule when you meet them — 80% of the conversation should be finding out about them. Ask open-ended questions like: What do you like best about the work you do? What are the biggest challenges your business is facing? How would I know if someone would be a good referral for you?
Be intentional in your follow-up: It does absolutely no good to go to a bunch of networking events, talk to people, collect business cards, and not follow-up. You must have a plan and reasons for following up with people you meet. Your primary reason is to learn more about their business and see if you would be a good referral source for them.
The infographic below from Network Wise provides additional tips for building a strong network both online and offline: