Networking is one of the most important life skills in any profession. Here are five tips for how to be the best potential networker you can be from five of the most successful networkers in the startup world:

1. Keep your network fresh and up to date - Jeff Ragovin, Former CSO, Salesforce-Buddy Media

"It's so import to prime the pump. Such as a car that needs regular oil changes, your network needs to be kept up to date or your contacts will go stale. Keep your contacts fresh by sending them information they would find important, take them to coffee, lunch or a drink. Don't over abuse them and always try to make it reciprocal. Successful networking requires a two way street."

2. If you are fortunate enough to be among other interesting people, then take the opportunity to learn - Joe Mechlinski, Founder of Entrequest

"People are fascinating and get them talking and telling stories so you can learn about them and their challenges and great excitements. When you learn by asking questions, you come off as authentic and a story of your own is a great place to start. Oh, and be sure to listen with your eyes."

3. Put yourself in the right situation - Judy Robinett, author of The Power Connector

"Most folks I know are in the wrong room looking for that lucky break, the right connection.  So top tip would to be strategic and make sure you're in the right room.  If there aren't people who can help you with your goals-- folks with gravitas, influence, money and are smarter than you, you're in the wrong room.  Find a new group like private, highly curated event."

4. Focus on building relationships - Aaron Hurst, CEO of Imperative

"Relationships are the largest and most important source of meaning in our work. When you network, it is important to see connecting and building connections through this lens and to realize doing it bring meaning to both people. Take the time to actually get to know people and not just close a transaction. Find ways to give before you take."

5. Sell without selling - Chris Steer, Entrepreneur and Investor

"Add value to every relationship you have and expect nothing in return.  Value above all else.  If that value comes from a healthy and purposeful place, it will come back tenfold.  A great way to do this is to empower people with relevant feedback, an analogous story to their area of interest, or a welcomed insight into a professional challenge.  Oh, and smile."

Published on: Jan 22, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.