Networking is probably oldest, easiest, most effective and least expensive way to get more business. It doesn't necessarily involve selling your product or service but it does mean selling yourself. However, that doesn't involve a lot of talking - it does involve a lot of listening.
Networking is about making connections with people and building a network of meaningful relationships.
Having good relationships means - these people will either do business with you and/or recommend you to others. These people are your unpaid sales-force and you've got to ensure that they do a good job.
Here are 9 steps to successful networking:
#1 Be prepared - Particularly if you're attending a formal networking event like Chamber of Commerce -
#2 Think about whom you'll be meeting - Consider what your opening remarks or questions will be. And think about what you're going to say when they question you.
#3 Make sure you have lots of business cards, a small notebook and a pen - These should be easily accessible and not involve a rummage through pockets or a bag to find them.
Reminder - NEVER go anywhere without business cards
#4 You don't necessarily need brochures - These can be sent when you follow up later. A networking event is not a place to sell you product or service. (This is not understood by people who have bored pants off me over years)
#5 Think about what you're going to wear - I've seen people rush into a networking event in clothes that look like they've been slept in. If it means having a change of clothes in office or going home to freshen up - then do it. Remember, image you present to other people is image they'll have of your business. Men should wear a bright tie (not cheap) and women should wear something bright. Remember, however - business dress, not sexy.