Before you go to your next networking social you might take these snippets of advice. First, interview yourself. Get to know who you are so that you will connect with the right people. Second, get into your customer’s shoes. Why should they hire you? Finally, be prepared with your own question for the customer.

Interviewing yourself is an exercise that will benefit you immensely in networking. A couple of questions to ask yourself are what are your strengths? What would your last client say about you? And what is one of your weaknesses?

How will knowing the answers to these questions help you? First, it will highlight what your key benefits are to your client. Knowing what you offer, why you offer it and how you offer it under pressure is important.

10 Words to use for describing your strengths:

  • self-starter
  • creative
  • motivated
  • decisive
  • organized
  • adaptable
  • responsible
  • productive
  • persistent
  • resourceful

Now that you know who you are take the time to get to know your ideal customer. Who are they? Are they college age or middle age? Are they female or male? What type of job do they have? Why do they need your service or product? What qualities would their ideal company have?

When you compare your interview with that of your ideal customer’s – do they match up? If they do, you are on the right track. If they don’t, you either don’t know your ideal customer well enough or you are marketing the wrong product. Knowing your similarities or differences before a networking event is valuable because you can take the time to alter or enhance your product or service.

The last step before attending your next network gathering is to prepare your own set of questions for your contacts. This is how you find out whether they are a fit for you. Remember, just because it is a networking event doesn’t mean you have to do business with everyone you meet. Be highly selective in the people you choose to do business with because your brand is at stake.

Some questions you might ask of network contacts are: if you have a very successful 2012, what would that look like? Or what keeps you up at night?   Knowing the answers to these two questions will tell you a lot about a person. First it will tell you how they interpret success and finally, it will tell you how they interpret their weaknesses. Knowing these two things will prepare you for a possible business relationship.

Networking isn’t difficult; you just need to know what you want in a business relationship and go after it. Don’t settle for just anyone as a client. Although the reason you are in business is to make a living don’t let that cloud your business sense. Only if you can communicate and meet each other’s goals can you truly develop a lasting partnership.