6+ Must-have networking skills for business developers

May 9, 2024
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Skills
6+ Must-have networking skills for business developers

hat are the must-have networking skills for business developers? Read this guide and get ready to make the most out of networking.

If you are a business development professional, you probably attended many networking events already.

Those awkward, but exciting meetups where you can build great connections or feel like you weren't really comfortable. And nothing happens!

In short, networking is a critical tactic for business development success, but you need to work on some of your skills to make the most out of your events.

Let's not waste any more time and let's have a look at the must-have networking skills for business developers:

  1. Active listening
  2. Verbal and nonverbal communication
  3. Rapport building
  4. Follow up
  5. Relationship nurturing skills
  6. Goal setting
  7. Measuring networking
  8. Adaptability and flexibility
  9. Digital networking

The importance of networking for business development

Networking can be a great ally to build and grow professional connections. As they say, your network is your net worth and that's even more true in business development. Our field is driven by relationships, so if you want to be successful you need to invest time in networking.

Building a strong network not only opens up new opportunities but also helps you increase your visibility and credibility. Moreover, a diverse network gives you direct access to resources, knowledge and insights that can help you grow your career and achieve your goals.

Last, networking gives you the chance to exchange ideas, collaborate on projects, and stay updated with the latest trends and developments in the industry.

6+ Must-have networking skills for business developers

Communication Skills for Networking

The first and most important must-have skills for networking are communication skills. Communication is not just about talking, but it includes active listening, empathy, and strong interpersonal abilities.

The combination of all these communication skills will help you build meaningful connections and achieve your long-term goals.

1 - Active Listening

Active listening is a fundamental communication skill for networking. It means actively concentrating, understanding, responding, and remembering what the other person is saying.

It seems easy, but every time we do roleplay in our training, people struggle with active listening. This is because when we're talking to people, we're often busy thinking of how we will respond. So we get distracted and we miss out on an opportunity to connect deeply with the other.

Active listening, if done right, shows respect and genuine interest in the other person. This genuine interest is exactly what helps you build trust and grow relations that can transform into business opportunities.

2 - Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

Successful networking includes both verbal and nonverbal communication. You need to master skills like body language, engaging in small talk, and persuasion.

Body language can help you show confidence, approachability, and sincerity without saying a word. Examples of body language can be a firm handshake, appropriate eye contact, and open posture. All gestures that will leave a lasting positive impression on others.

Small talk may seem basic, but it is an essential tool in building relationships. After all, if you think about your friends chances are you started your friendship based on some simple conversation you had early on.

That's the same in business relationships. You can't go straight to business talk. You need something simple to break the ice, find common ground, and create the foundation for deeper conversations.

Once you build a connection, you can go back to more professional and high-level communication. This will help you showcase your expertise, credibility, and respect for others.

3 - Rapport building

Among networking skills for business developers, we can't forget rapport building. Building rapport means finding something you have in common with the other person and using that as a relationship starter.

To build rapport you need active listening, empathy, and being genuine. But on top of that you should also do some research on the people that will join the networking event. This will help you have some insights that you can use as icebreakers.

For example, if you check my LinkedIn profile you will easily find out that I'm very passionate about tennis. If you meet me at a networking event, and you start talking about tennis, we will probably become BFFs.

This simple gesture of knowing a little bit about the other can go a long way in building relationships.

If you don't know anything about the other person, break the ice with a simple comment on the event. For example:

"This food is really tasty, don't you think?"

or "The seminar was amazing, did you like it too?"

💥 Check our networking skills course to become a master networker

Building and maintaining relationships

One risk at every networking event is that you don't capitalise on the connections you made. So basically, you meet a lot of cool people but then you go back to your daily life and forget about them.

After all, building a strong network isn't just about collecting business cards or making connections. It takes time and effort to build genuine connections with individuals who can provide support, guidance, and opportunities.

The key to building and maintaining relationships lies in the follow-up.

4 - Follow-up and Follow-through

Effective networking can't happen without diligent follow-up and follow-through. These touch points will help you maintain connections, nurture relationships, and show commitment to networking goals. Moreover, consistent follow-up helps you show yourself as a reliable and professional business developer.

A business developer who doesn't talk to people just for their own return. But because they're genuinely interested in building an amazing network.

Check-in regularly with your connections. Follow them on social media and interact with their posts. If you have something interesting to share, do it. At every interaction, always provide value and become a relevant resource in their network.

Above all, make sure you keep the promises you make to your network, so you show your integrity and credibility.

5 - Nurturing relationships

Keeping relationships alive is a real struggle. If you're 30+ like me...you know what I'm talking about!

It does take a lot of effort, but it's a necessary one if you want to build a strong network.

The best way to nurture relationships is by adopting a proactive approach. Book time on your agenda to check in with your contacts. Provide support when you see fit and introduce people who think would benefit from knowing each other.

In general, the best way to network with others is by genuinely being curious and willing to help others succeed. If you manage to get out of the transactional type of relationships, you can win in the networking game!

Strategic Planning and Goal Setting for Networking

In the list of must-have networking skills for business developers, we can't forget strategic planning and goal setting. These two skills are interconnected and extremely important for successful networking.

They help you align your efforts with specific objectives. Moreover, they help you measure your efforts and optimize your networking strategies accordingly.

6 - Goal setting for networking

To set clear networking goals you have to first understand what you want to get out of networking. Are you just looking for quick sales? Or are you willing wot build a strong and valuable network for a long-term strategy?

This first step will then help you to define your target connections. When thinking about your audience, think of what type of people could help you achieve your goals faster.

For example, if your goal is to find potential partners for your business, then you should look for companies in your industry that cater to the same audience as you.

If you're looking for mentors, then you should look for more experienced people in your field of expertise. And so on.

Once you know who's your target audience, you can look for specific events you want to attend and start planning your networking strategy. Focus on your personal branding to shape the way other people perceive you.

Depending on where is your audience you might opt for social media platforms like LinkedIn or any other relevant network or community. Make these platforms the place to build and nurture your network!

7 - Measuring networking success

An important element of networking is of course, measuring your networking success. It's important to check regularly if you're still moving towards your goals or you need to adapt your networking strategy.

The first step to measure networking is to identify some key performance indicators (KPIs). Some helpful networking KPIs could be:

  • Number of connections
  • Number of events you attend
  • Number of referrals through networking

However, in the end, the KPI you choose must help measure accurately your networking effort, so choose what makes the most sense for your business.

Besides setting KPIs, you should take some time to reflect after each networking event.

Think about what happened, who you met, and how you felt when meeting them, and write down all the things that helped you start conversations. You can then build a process around your own best practices an make your networking more successful over time.

Of course, it's very important to record every piece of information in your CRM. Even if you have a good memory, you won't be able to remember every single detail of your conversation.

Write down everything, even small insignificant things. Usually, those are the ones that make the difference!

Adaptability and flexibility in networking

Adaptability and flexibility are essential traits for business development in general, and in the specific, for networking.

When you attend networking events you don't really know who you will meet or the atmosphere you will find. It might be something very friendly and chill, but it can also turn out to be very formal with very experienced attendees.

Regardless, you need to be able to adapt and be ready to rock the event!

8 - Adaptability and flexibility

Networking events can be very different just like the people attending them. You might meet people from different cultures with different approaches to business and networking itself.

As a business developer, is it your responsibility to adapt to these differences and embrace cultural nuances in order to be more effective in networking.

Show respect and genuine curiosity for cultural differences and practices. Use them as conversation starters to break the ice and get to meet new people.

Make sure you also attend all the related events to the main one. For example, if you're attending a big conference, don't just go home after the conference center closes. Instead, ask your connections where they're hanging out next.

Most events offer networking opportunities outside the actual event. These can be parties, receptions, and more. These usually allow for a more relaxed atmosphere where you will find it easier to connect with others.

👉 Learn how to leverage networking in business development

Networking Technology Skills

Leveraging networking technology skills is essential for modern business development professionals. There are many online networking tools, and digital resources that can help you expand your connections and enhance networking effectiveness.

Moreover, they allow you to connect with a wider audience and build relationships with people far away that you wouldn't be able to meet otherwise. And that can be a great competitive advantage in business development!

9 - Digital networking

Using social media for networking is only about connecting with people. It also involves creating a professional online presence, engaging with industry peers, and sharing content to showcase expertise.

One key aspect of building a strong online presence is to consistently share valuable content that resonates with your target audience. This can help you establish credibility and position yourself as a thought leader in the industry.

Besides, sharing content, active participation in online discussions and groups can provide you with many more networking opportunities.

Personally, I met many people on LinkedIn who helped me in many ways with growing The BD School. Many became my mentors, colleagues, business partners, clients, and even friends.

And it all started with a simple connection request!

Online networking is an amazing tool, especially if you're a bit introverted because it breaks the barrier of facing someone in real life. This helps you build a connection and when you finally do meet in person, you will feel much more confident.

Lastly, personal branding plays a crucial role in social media networking. Consistent messaging, a cohesive visual identity, and a compelling bio can help individuals stand out and attract relevant connections.

If you would like to increase your confidence during networking events, check out our networking skills course. This course will equip you with simple tactics, tools, and skills to help you enjoy networking more and build meaningful connections.

Maria Cozza - Trainer at The BD School during a session of the Networking Skills Course

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the top 6 must-have networking skills for business developers?

The top 6 must-have networking skills for business developers are active listening, communication skills, adaptability, follow up, relationship building skills, and goal setting

Why is Networking a Necessary Skill for Business Developers?

Networking is a critical skill for business developers as it enables them to establish and nurture valuable relationships that drive opportunities. Effective networking requires a combination of communication skills, relationship-building abilities, and a strategic mindset to capitalize on connections.

Building relationships through networking is not just about exchanging business cards or making small talk; it's about creating lasting connections founded on trust and mutual benefit. The ability to communicate effectively plays a key role in making a positive impression and conveying professionalism.

By cultivating a strong network, business developers can access valuable resources, industry insights, and potential collaborations that can help propel their ventures forward.

Why is communication a crucial networking skill for business developers?

Communication is a crucial networking skill for business developers. It allows for effective communication with potential clients, partners, and investors. It also helps in conveying ideas and building strong relationships.

How does relationship-building play a role in networking for business developers?

Relationship-building is essential in networking for business developers as it helps create a positive and long-lasting impression on your stakeholders. It also helps in building trust and credibility, which are crucial in business development.

What is the importance of active listening in networking for business developers?

Active listening is crucial in networking for business developers. It allows for a better understanding of potential clients, partners, and investors. It also helps in identifying their needs and concerns, which can be addressed in a more effective manner.

Why is adaptability a necessary networking skill for business developers?

Adaptability is necessary in networking for business developers as it allows for adjusting to different networking situations and personalities. It also helps in building rapport and making connections with individuals from diverse backgrounds.

How does time management contribute to successful networking for business developers?

Time management is a vital skill as it allows for better organization and prioritization of networking events and follow-ups. It also helps in making the most of limited time and resources to build valuable connections.

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