Have you ever met a power networker? You’d know if you did. No matter what they're doing, they have a connection that can help. Whenever they ask for assistance, people literally trip over themselves to lend them a hand. How do they do it? The secret to networking lies in the way that you approach it. If you are only concerned with getting more customers, the quality of your network will reflect that. However, if you approach networking with the long term goal of building a community, your network will take on a life of its own. Here are some tips that will help you strengthen your connections and build a vibrant network:
Connect on a personal level. When you are meeting new people, ask them a lot of questions and find ways to connect with them. Are you both parents of small children? Do you both love baseball? Do you have a similar work approach or shared ethics? People are more comfortable working with those who are similar to themselves.
Create a strategy. Some people go to networking events ready to hand out as many of their business cards as is humanly possible. Unfortunately for them, quality is more important than quantity when networking. Consider your business and make a list of the people that you would like to include in your network. Focus your efforts on connecting with people with whom you will be able to build long-term relationships that are mutually beneficial.
Keep in regular contact. It may be helpful to think of the people in your network as your business “friends.” How do you treat your friends? Do you only call them when you need them, or do you regularly check in to see how they’re doing?
Find ways to help the people in your network. To build a strong network, you should be giving to it 80% of the time and receiving from it 20% of the time. How do the people in your network benefit from being connected to you? Keep your eyes and ears open for any opportunities that may be of interest to your contacts.
Build your social capital. The best way to increase your value to your network is to get to know more people. Branch out and become a strong connection. The more contacts you have, the more helpful you can be.
To build an effective network, you need to make connections that go well beyond your business interests. Your community is full of unique individuals that you can partner with to take your company to the next level. However, the true secret to networking is to forget that you’re doing it for your business and to focus on the person standing in front of you.