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Why is networking important for creating business success and wealth? The answer is simple. It’s not a coincidence that hundreds, even thousands, of people are hired for positions over individuals who are more qualified and more experienced merely because they have cultivated relationships with key centers of influence. It’s not a coincidence when one politician is elected into office over another because he has cultivated relationships with more individual voters than the opposition.

Through networking, you will receive opportunities that will expand your current knowledge base, business and wealth creation. Through networking, you will be put in positions to expand your current skills and learn to communicate at many levels. Networking is communicating with others to create mutually beneficial relationships.

People often confuse networking with “quantity of contracts.” However, the purpose of networking is simply to enhance your cause. Think of networking as the opening of doors to the unknown. You might be tempted to believe the more doors you have, the greater the odds you will make the right kinds of connections, but that is incorrect.

Networking is intentional by design. By placing yourself in situations that attract others with whom mutually beneficial relationships can be established, you increase the potential payoffs. Therefore, one of the greatest traits of the networking leader is the ability to actively identify which doors to open.

Related: 4 Reasons Why Networking Is a Must for All Successful Entrepreneurs

5 Ways to network your way to business growth and wealth

1. Do your homework

This might sound self-explanatory, but you’ll be surprised how many entrepreneurs overlook this part. Planning is a component of networking, and you will need to make lists and seek out resources that can answer basic questions about the person or organization you will be meeting. For instance, who knows the person you are trying to meet? Who else works with this person? Where do they live? I’m not suggesting you stalk your potential pool of networking targets; rather, sit down and list the information that might help increase the quality of your potential interactions.

I learned the importance of doing your homework when I had the opportunity to have dinner with author Mary Higgins Clark. Despite the many possible ways of learning more about my famous upcoming dinner host, time required that I select only a few. Step one was a trip to my local bookstore — a place of great networking resources. I asked the person working behind the counter if she had ever heard of Mary Higgins Clark. “Oh yes,” she replied, as she pointed to a display holding more than 10 of her books. Now I felt anxious; despite my desire to read what appeared to be stacks upon stacks of her best-selling novels, I purchased only three to read on the plane. As I left the bookstore, I found myself less anxious and more excited about my upcoming encounter.

2. Take the initiative and introduce yourself

When meeting someone of notoriety, it is natural to be nervous about making a bad first impression, regardless of your own level of success. Even the most charismatic individuals say the wrong things out of nervousness or excitement. I think it’s always wise to rely on politeness. This seems like an obvious suggestion until you mistakenly call someone by her first name after a two-minute introduction. Whether the person you are approaching is famous or not, it’s always acceptable to ask, “How would you like to be addressed?” after introducing yourself. I also like to have a few questions in mind that begin with the phrase, “Tell me about…,” followed by a reference to something I know about the person. Because most people like to talk about themselves, the more the conversation places emphasis on your new acquaintance — not why they should be thrilled to meet you — the more likely will be another encounter.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to make any decisions about how to approach my dinner host since Mary Higgins Clark greeted me as I approached her home. Still, outside, Mary and I talked about a host of topics, from our families and hobbies to the stock market. She was very interested in the market. She asked questions that, frankly, were rather complicated to answer. Instead of trying to impress her (a mistake often made when trying to make a good impression), I responded to her questions with simple, easy-to-understand answers.

Related: The 10 Commandments of Networking You Must Know to Build Authentic Connections

3. Make it about them

You never want to make yourself sound better, smarter or more knowledgeable than your partners in conversation. When you do this, you appear condescending and, despite your desire to build a foundation for additional interaction, you may have just closed the door. In fact, it should be your goal to ask more questions than you answer. Keep the other person engaged in the conversation by having them share information about themselves. Find a common interest. Last, do what is needed to make yourself appear approachable. Offering your business card is just one way to ensure this happens.

Much to my delight, my use of effective networking skills with Mary Higgins Clark was immediately rewarded. For example, as I was leaving after a wonderful evening of conversation over a New England dinner, Mary asked if she could talk to me for a minute. I walked with her to the corner of the room, where she said, “I really like you and how easily you explained the answers to my questions. I’m looking to open an investment account with another company, and I’d like to open the account with you.”

4. Stay in frequent contact

Why did this happen? Simply because I took the initiative to stay in contact. There are many ways you can do this. Writing thank you cards, sending articles of interest with a note or remembering events of significance with flowers are all examples of frequent contact. Sending an e-mail message — although impersonal when compared to a letter — also keeps your name and contact information out there. Call certain contacts periodically and, if you happen to be in their area, take them to lunch or give them a quick call to say hello.

5. Look for ways to offer praise

Making others feel good is essential for walking through doors once they have been opened. Congratulating someone for accomplishments or thanking them for taking the time to speak with you are ways to praise. This does not mean you should act like a crazed fan; instead, think about what you could say that would make the other person feel good about themselves. Praising your own accomplishments can lead to a competitive tone in your conversations. Having a calm sense of self while praising others makes you appear self-confident and much more worthy of additional contacts.

Final words

No successful entrepreneur achieves business or financial goals without the assistance of others. It doesn’t matter how knowledgeable, qualified or experienced you are: Without the assistance of others, you will probably fail to excel. Push yourself to stretch outside your immediate comfort zone, seek different ideas and discover a world of potential opportunities for yourself and your business.

Mastering the art of networking will enhance your abilities and opportunities to create the business growth and wealth you desire.

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