Building an effective business network is about connecting with individuals who become active proponents of one another through relationships of mutual confidence. It’s important to remember that this only comes through creating authentic personal connections and building professional trust. a sincere desire to help others achieves that. However, there are 3 tips you can use for growing and maintaining your network of business contacts.
1. Join Important Groups
It’s important to define and recognize the points where your business interests and personal objectives align. Choose groups that will get you closer to these objectives. Groups may have different priorities, such as sharing information or volunteering for projects or studies, in addition to making contacts.
Narrow down your options by visiting as many groups as possible that seem to share your interests. Be aware of the tone of meetings and attitudes of the members. Are they supportive? Are they experts in your field, or novices looking for guidance? Are the group directors competent and supportive? Most groups will allow you to take part a few times before asking for a commitment.
Consider volunteer work as a way to build positive relationships and appreciation. Take for example Tracy Rawle, who transitioned from restaurants to financial services and built up a national presence of 70 stores. Much of his time is devoted to taking leading roles in community and charity organizations which form a strong connection with like-minded business leaders.
2. Draw Attention
Ask questions and propose problems that inspire discussion, not simple yes or no responses. This shows others that you are interested in them and their experiences. It also promotes further discussion and brings more attention to you and your conversations.
Make yourself available as a resource for others. When you’re known as someone who can supply information and find answers, others will remember that and turn to you first. You can provide names, ideas, and suggestions that establish you as an industry resource and help to sustain attention and value.
Get an honest understanding of your own strengths, needs, and motivations. What can you contribute to an ongoing problem or discussion that will be of value? What is there about your take on things that’s creative or unique? You can also generate interest by being the one to ask important questions. What do you hope to achieve and how can others help you?
3. Follow Up
Don’t simply build up a contact list that will languish until they’ve forgotten all about you. Pursue relationships that are important to you, and follow up promptly on any referrals or invitations. Respect the fact that any referrals you receive are given on the belief that you are a responsible professional with something to offer. Follow through with those you meet that could represent a mutually rewarding relationship. Express interest, gratitude, pleasure at the meeting, and suggest some ideas for getting together to share ideas.
Keep in touch. Even a casual email with a link to an article or video your contact might benefit from will help to cement trust and prolong relationships. Keeping these connections active and interesting will keep you in their thoughts. What you don’t want is long gaps of silence or frequent, pointless messaging that becomes annoying. Maintain a spreadsheet or CRM database treating your contacts like customers; know what they like, how to find them, and when you last connected.
You want to obtain and grow as many contacts as possible to widen your opportunities. But too much networking will create more casual relationships. Focus on what you want, what you can contribute, and how to sustain the relationships that prove to be the most fruitful.