How To Build A Great Network

It’s great to meet people, especially successful ones who can help you. But meeting them isn’t enough…your goal should be to build a long-lasting relationship. That’s when you’ll really start getting some value out of your network.

Here are several things you can do to increase your chances of networking success:

Put yourself out there:

Lots of people go to events, but very few make the most out of it. After all, it’s not easy to just casually approach someone and ask for a business card.

Instead, try to engage people in a more detailed conversation. Explain to them what you do and make sure to listen to their story. This makes it much more likely that they will remember you in the future.

If there’s an awkward pause in the conversation, you can use it as an opportunity to get their contact information (a business card, e-mail address, or phone number)

Follow Up:

It never ceases to amaze me how many people collect business cards and then never send a follow-up e-mail. Ideally, you should follow-up with everyone within 24 hours. This maximizes the chances that they’ll remember who you are.

You don’t have to send out a long, detailed e-mail. Just a simple note will suffice. Recap the conversation and give them a few options for staying in touch. You should also include a “teaser” – some reason that they should respond other than to just hang out…which brings me to:

Demonstrating Value:

People are busy. They don’t want to meet up with just anyone. Therefore, you should put yourself in their shoes and figure out what you can do for them. Here are a few ways that you can demonstrate value to prospective contacts:

Introductions: Think about your own network. Is there anyone that could help your prospective contact? If so, offer an introduction. This immediately elevates your communication to a higher priority level.

Advice or Expertise: If you are an expert in a certain area, it’s helpful to let people know that. This way, they are more likely to see value in knowing you. Be willing to share some of your expertise to strengthen the relationship…but at the same time, don’t give away too much for free.

Once you have given people a reason to stay in touch, the next step is to build the relationship by…

Meeting Face-to-Face:

Pick a convenient location: Make sure that you meet someone that’s convenient for the other person. If you care about the relationship, then you want to make things as easy as possible.

Don’t Be Late: There’s nothing worse you can do than being late. It makes it seem like you aren’t taking the meeting (and therefore the relationship) seriously. Better to be insanely early than to even be a minute late.

Don’t Just Talk Business: It’s important to be interesting as a person. Make an effort to get to know the other person and see if you have any common interests. People tend to loosen up if they feel more comfortable around you. Body language is a great indicator of whether someone’s interested in what you have to say.

Offer to Pay: If you’re meeting for lunch or coffee, at least make an effort to pick up the bill. If they resist, tell them they can pay next time.

At the end of the day, the goal is to build a trusted business relationship…and ideally a friendship as well. Think about it: people are much more likely to help their friends out when they need it, so your goal should be to make as many friends as possible.

What techniques have helped you in networking? Please share in the comments.

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