Networking1Successful entrepreneurs are master networkers. They keep business cards for years, write down names, and follow up with potential leads. They also touch base with contacts frequently just to check-in, not necessarily to solicit business. It is this diligence that leads to referrals and long-term, mutually beneficial business relationships.

Need to brush up on your networking skills? Here, Margo Geller, owner of Margo Geller and Associates, a business consultancy in Atlanta, offers her top tips for becoming a master networker.

Stick to the 70 percent rule

Networking events are a dime a dozen. The key to finding the best prospects, according to Geller, is to focus on who will attend each event. Do this by asking the event coordinator for the guest list ahead of time. If that doesn’t work, ask for the list from the last event to use as a frame of reference.

“Don’t waste time going to events unless 70 percent or more of the people in attendance will be qualified, potential, ideal clients for you,” she says. “It’s about quality, not quantity. You need to be fishing in spot ponds.”

Arrive early

Even if you know everyone on the guest list, Geller recommends arriving early to an in-person networking event. Grab your nametag and stand by the registration table to see people as they come in. That way, you will know whom to target first.

Check your feelings

Have you had a rotten day? If so, stay in the car and repeat positive affirmations to yourself before walking into a networking event, suggests Geller.

“If you are walking around an event and someone senses that you’re not in a good place, they will not be drawn to talking to you,” she says. “Make sure you feel good and look good because your internal attitude will shine through.”

Practice active listening

You’ve arrived at an event and identified the person you want to speak with. After approaching them in a pleasant manner and asking a few questions about their business, let them talk to you and listen intently. As Geller explains, it is more important to listen than to talk in networking situations.

“At the end of the conversation say that you enjoyed meeting them and ask if it would be OK if you called them tomorrow to follow up,” she says.

Run a business association or networking group

Getting involved in your local business association or networking group is the best way to establish credibility as someone people might want to do business with.

“Even better, shoot for a top position in the association,” Geller says. “People are likely to respect you if you lead the organization.”