04/08/2015 11:45 BST | Updated 04/08/2016 06:59 BST

What Everyone Ought to Know About Networking

As CEO of The Coaching Academy and Director of Mentoring at Start-up Loans, I can spend a lot of time in and out of meetings and at events, doing so allows me to network with a range of individuals and I find these experiences to be one of the most valuable uses of my time.

Most successful entrepreneurs I know understand that the lifeblood of their business is found in making the right connections and building their network, with recent studies showing that those well networked are three times more influential than those who aren't.

In the modern times we live in social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have made it easier than ever to instantly reach desired groups of people and remain better connected. Reaching potential business partners, mentors or leads has never been as accessible as it is today but to truly reap the benefits of networking it takes more than simply friending someone on Facebook or accepting an invitation on LinkedIn.

In the world of business networking is a vital activity which can provide many benefits, here are my top 5:

1) Sharing Knowledge

Networking is a great way to share knowledge and ideas with like-minded people. Whether you're giving or asking for advice, feedback or discussing insights, sharing knowledge expands your understanding of a topic and provides a different perspective. When you put yourself in a group setting and network with others you're also likely to meet individuals who have been in a similar position to you, allowing you to learn from their experiences and potentially avoid some of their mistakes.

2) Opportunities

when surrounded by a motivated group of business owners you're bound to run into opportunity. Networking can provide lots of opportunities for your business whether this involves meeting someone you can have a joint venture with, developing your next client lead or securing your next speaking opportunity. Taking time out to network gives you a chance to connect with the right people who align with your business goal or vision. Be ready to seize the right opportunities when they come along, one comment that set me free years ago was 'just because it's a good idea doesn't mean you have to do it' learning to say no is just as important as knowing when to say yes. Make sure you don't dilute the impact you have on your current business by exploring opportunities elsewhere.

3) Connections

'it's not what you know, it's who you know' this couldn't be truer in business. If you want a successful business then it's imperative to start building relationships and creating relevant contacts. Networking can open the door to a great source of connections and influential groups of people, so grab your chances by asking the right questions to the right people. Also be aware that networking isn't just a one way street, the most successful networkers are those who walk in to a room with an intention to pay it forward and see who they can assist whether that's sharing their network or offering a helping hand. When I network I focus on adding value to others and thinking about how I may be helpful to them - don't approach networking with a mind-set of what you can get instead focus on what you can give.

4) Raising Your Profile

Regularly attending networking events can help you to become more familiar and for your business to gain more visibility, this can establish a positive reputation as you'll have more opportunities to exercise your knowledge and support other networkers by offering useful information and inspiration. The more reputable you become the more likely you'll be to acquire leads and referrals, helping your business to expand and thrive.

5) Increased Confidence

Networking is a great way for those who aren't as confident to push themselves out of their comfort zone and learn how to make conversations and connections with new people. Having confidence is a fundamental attribute for any business owner as one of the key factors for success is based on the people you talk to and the connections you make. If you don't feel confident when talking about your business then people won't feel confident doing business with you, networking can help you to boost your confidence and create lasting impressions with the people you meet.

Mastering the art of networking is a valuable skill to learn one which can provide opportunities that may not have previously been available to you. By asking yourself what groups or individuals would be beneficial to your business and how you can connect with them, you put yourself in a position to get the ball rolling and actively seek out events and connections that suit the needs of your business helping you to steam ahead and grow your network.