By Jenifer Anhalt

Networking is about building mutually beneficial relationships that stand the test of time. Meeting people and getting to know them allows you to expand your personal network as well as your sphere of influence. For instance, you might know of lots of companies that can print whatever anyone needs when they need it – we are all bombarded with ads every day. But it is the person you know that owns the print shop down the street that you’re more likely to refer to people. Why? Because of the relationship you’ve taken the time to build.

Make it personal

At your next networking event, make the first question you ask a personal one. Instead of asking them what they do for a living, consider asking them where they are from. Business talk will naturally follow later in the conversation, the key here is to listen and to learn about the person you a speaking with.

Get their card

Getting their card gives you the control over contacting them again. Once you have their information, you can reach out and set up a one-on-one meeting to strengthen your relationship and find out how you may be able to help them. Another tip? Take the time to jot down notes on the back of the card after you speak with them. Make these personal notes you can refer to in your follow-up email or phone call. Maybe their son is having a big soccer game – mention it in your email. This lets the other person know you were listening and that you care.

Listen more than you talk

Make your conversation about the other person and really listen to what they have to say. As the saying goes, ‘people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’ Pay attention, make notes later if you need to and think of how you can connect them with the resources they need now or may need in the future.

True, networking takes time and effort – but the value of the relationships you build is priceless.