Building a network for success takes more than knowing a lot of people. The best networkers are those who genuinely care about the people with whom they interact. As you get out and meet new contacts for your network, be sure to incorporate these 11 tips to build real connections and friendships that will pay off down the road.
- Be Genuine – Remember that networking is all about building trust and relationships with people. Focus on the other person and what you can do for them, not what they can do for you. Simple acts of service and sincerity can do wonders for establishing a friendship.
- Find Common Ground – The most efficient, effective way to connect with a contact is to emphasize a common ground. Do you have any mutual friends? Have you ever traveled to his or her home state? Are you both Giants fans? Picking up on similar interests or experiences is a surefire way to put people at ease and drum up a conversation naturally.
- Keep Goals Clear – What are you hoping to accomplish at networking meetings? Clearly defined goals will help you select the right meeting. Some groups focus on learning, making contacts and/or volunteering.
- Get Out There – Visit as many of the groups that spark your interest as possible. Many groups will let you visit a time or two before joining, which gives you a chance to assess their tone and attitude. Do they seem supportive? Is the leadership effective?
- Volunteer – Taking on volunteer positions in organizations gives you both visibility and a way to give back.
- Go Beyond Basics – When talking with new people, ask questions that go beyond who, what, where, when and how. Open-ended questions show a genuine interest in learning from the other person.
- Be Resourceful – The ability to connect people with the solution to their needs is powerful. When people know they can turn to you for a resource, they’ll remember you and be more likely to refer you to others in their network.
- Know Yourself – What sets you apart from others in your industry? Clearly understanding your personal brand is key to showing others why you’re in the market in the first place.
- Speak Up – In addition to knowing what sets you apart, you should be able to articulate what you’re seeking and offering. This helps to move beyond the realm of “How can I help?” into real connections.
- Follow Through – Your actions reflect upon those who provided you with referrals. Show respect and honor for these helpful contacts by being reliable and conducting business in a timely manner.
- Follow Up – Give a personal touch to a new contact by calling or sending an email to express that you enjoyed meeting them. Ask if they’d like to get together again to share ideas of how you can help them and vice versa.