Business networking is often misunderstood. Ask 20 people exactly what it is and you’ll get 21 different answers. So let’s clarify the situation and examine the 7 Unbreakable Laws of Successful Networking. According to www.thefreedictionary.com, a law is a rule of conduct or procedure established by custom, agreement, or authority. That sounds about right. Heed these and you’ll always find networking to be a positive, natural and beneficial activity. Ignore them and you’ll continue to be frustrated, bewildered or frazzled by the whole networking scene. Your choice!

1. Networking Is Life

Networking is not some dark mysterious art or some weird science. It’s not a dirty word. Networking is simply having conversations and building relationships. This could be online or offline, at the golf club or at a business conference, on the phone or on a Skype call, via an email exchange or at a business breakfast meeting. Everywhere you are having conversations, you are networking. It’s universal, it’s natural and it’s vital.

Lesson: embrace networking as a natural activity you do every day. Some conversations will be random and serendipitous, some will be strategic and focused. Human interaction is what gives us meaning, so simply start having more conversations and you’ll become an amazing networker!

2. Networking Is Inclusive

Everyone has something to give or share. Even if you’re in the most boring conversation in the world, you can learn something from everyone. Even if you’re networking with someone that seems totally irrelevant to what you’re doing, you can take away one nugget, one contact, one idea. The lesson or takeaway might simply be how NOT to do something or who NOT to talk to in the future. It could be a mistake to avoid. True, networking is mostly about business, profile and career, but conversations can give you many insights on life, health, purpose and character. Also pretty much everyone knows stuff you don’t. Everyone has had experiences you haven’t. Everyone has connections with people you don’t know. Everyone has made mistakes that you can learn from.

Lesson: be open and be curious. If you have a desire for knowledge, insight and answers, feed that hunger. If you don’t, then try to develop it. You’ve heard that learners are earners. We never stop. What got you here won’t get you there is a useful cliché! So embrace the unique contribution from everyone and be open to learning from those different to you. Don’t be too dismissive of people you feel are not like you. Think more about learning at least one thing from or about them before moving on.

3. Networking Is Caring

Networking is a people thing, which means you’ve got to care, give value and make a difference. You’ve got to help people, to change their life for the better in some way. Good networking is two way. It’s a value for value exchange. You can quickly spot the selfish networker who is all about the sale, the deal, the personal gain and the win. The better relationship builders think long term. They give first and gain second. They look for opportunities to help, to contribute and to share. You may not be a lover of people or have natural empathy. But as Zig Ziglar wisely said, you can get whatever you want in life if you help other people get what they want.

Lesson: Make an effort to uncover people’s pain, problems, project and plans. All of these opportunities will open up avenues for you to give, help and connect. Look for the ‘value for value exchange. That’s when both sides win. When you care and contribute, you’ll create profit, profile and a great degree of personal satisfaction.

4. Networking Is Critical

Networking is a people thing. We all need people to succeed. Whatever your goals are, you won’t achieve them on your own. Everything you want in life, you’ve got to go through other people to get it. All the money you will ever earn is currently sitting in someone else’s pocket or bank account. Whether you’re building a team, a brand or an empire, you need good people around you. You need mentors, advocates, coaches, advisors, helpers, supporters and fans. You need experts, gurus and specialists. Even socially and outside work, you need friends, family, trades people and companionship. It’s hard doing life alone, so building relationships, having conversations and constructing a network to get through life with less stress and more happiness is vital.

Lesson: Ignore the importance of networking at your peril. Whether you want more sales, deals, customers and clients, or more profile, influence and career opportunities, you must KNOW and BE KNOWN for ultimate success. Networking will help you cut corners, fast track success and open closed doors in ways that you could never do yourself.

5. Networking Is Coachable

Networking is skill based. It’s a jigsaw puzzle made up of different skills like working a room, remembering names, choosing the right events, asking the right questions, listening well, introducing yourself and others confidently, creating opportunities, following up, keeping in touch, building trust, being more likeable and making things happen. All of this can be taught. All of this you can improve. Like muscles, you can train them, grow them and shape them. It just takes a little effort, application and discipline. It takes some good education, some good learning and some good practice. Everyone can become a confident and effective networker.

Lesson: get some good education and training about networking. The Networking Coaching Academy here is the perfect place to start. With the 100+ videos at the free level, you’ve got a powerful training program right there. Great networkers are made, not born. Sure, you may have some natural gifts, but most of it is honed and trained. Which is down to you.

6. Networking Is Cumulative

The best networkers have been doing it a while. It’s not something you wake up one morning and start world class. Your experience builds, your conversational techniques build, your listening skills build, your ability to read and master different networking situations builds. Networking compounds. Your skills grow exponentially because the way you ask questions of people face to face will positively affect the way you follow up, convert leads and negotiate deals. The more you work on remembering names and faces, the better you’ll get.

Lesson: keep working on your relationship building and your communication skills. Invest in yourself and your networking skills. None of this is lost. It all contributes and it all accumulates. You can be in the top 5% of networkers in the world. But it won’t happen overnight. You don’t have to be a brilliant networker today, but if you aim to be better tomorrow than today, you’re making progress!

7. Networking Is Never-Ending

Networking is like getting fit. You never really get to a point where you can stop doing it. Your network is never complete. Your relationships are never totally developed. Just like your character is never totally formed and your self-esteem is never totally grounded. You never stop networking, just like you never stop having conversations and talking to people. Moreover, it’s going to take a while to build anything like the network you need to get you where you want to be. You may have to kiss a few frogs to get a few princes and princesses. Not everyone will want to connect with you. Not everyone will be your biggest fan. And not everyone will be your perfect fit. You might (through bad luck or bad judgement) invest time in the wrong relationships. But you’ll get somewhere close eventually if you keep going and take a long term view.

Lesson: be patient. It won’t happen overnight but it will happen. It’s said that people overestimate what they can do in a month but underestimate what they can do in a year. Your network will never be exactly how you want it, but you do have a chance to get it as close to perfection as you can if you work at it.

So that’s the 7 Unbreakable Laws of Successful Networking. The list is not exclusive – perhaps you have another law you might add?