Guest Contributor

10 Productive Ways To Build Your Network

By | Dawn Castell

Whether it’s in business or friendship, the “know, like, and trust” factor holds true when it comes to connecting and sharing resources. A strong network can open up possibilities for you in ways that nothing else can. Your level of knowledge, or “what you know” is important. And for better or worse, “who you know” is even more crucial when you’re talking about business or career development. The benefits of a great network go both ways. The expertise and experience of people in your network can jumpstart your learning, and you also have a great deal of value to offer. Here are several productive, commonsense ways to build your network of associates.

1. Turn Down the Pressure

Building relationships comes first — full stop. Selling is only a small part of networking, and it only happens when relationships are solid. Keep it informal and light when talking to possible prospects; get rid of the heavy pitch. Keep in mind that you’re just getting to know someone, laying a foundation for an authentic friendship. If someone knows, likes, and trusts you, they’ll be much more likely to seek your business when the time is right. Turn down the pressure on yourself, too; self-care is vital as you put yourself out there. Maintain a regular sleep schedule, exercise, eat well, and consider products like Young Living Essential Oils to support your overall well-being.

2. Adjust Your Mindset

When you first meet someone, think about what you can give instead of what you can get. This adjustment in your mindset will make a big difference in your interactions. It’ll affect the way you come across, too; instead of being nervous about the impression you make and wondering if you seem too needy, you’ll project a calm confidence. You know what you have to offer and how you can help. The networking process becomes much more flowing and much less fraught.

Keep in mind along the way that as you push yourself to get to know and network with new people, that you’ll face seeming rejection and setbacks. Some emails and calls may go unreturned. Requests for introductions or meetings may be declined. Don’t let that dampen your enthusiasm. Harvest the learning, wish them well, and move on. You only have a chance at succeeding if you try and take risks. As time goes by, you’ll get more resilient in this area.

3. Listen, Listen, Listen

Listen more than you talk. It’ll set you apart from most, you never know what you might learn. Also, there’s no way of knowing how you can help another person if you’re doing all the talking. Be genuine and genuinely interested; ask questions, and listen to the answers. It’s smart to reference previous conversations to show you were listening and retaining. Ask follow-up questions, showing that you’ve listened. Then, there’s room for an authentic relationship that may lead to a strong business partnership.

4. Prepare Your Pitch

When the opportunity comes your way and you’re asked about your service or product, be prepared. Have a brief, informal, easy-to-remember description of what you do and what sets it apart. Keep it under ninety seconds if you can, and stay focused on the highlights of what you offer. Let your commitment and passion show; networking has more to do with people than with things, so keep your focus on the “why” of what you do. Don’t make the pitch sound robotic. Rehearse so you can communicate without sounding forced, unnatural, or canned. Make it sound like the way you naturally talk.

5. Network Organically

You don’t have to wait for a formal event to start networking; be alert for opportunities to organically meet and converse with people. Don’t treat people as just connections. Have genuine conversation and show interest in the other person. Every casual chat you have brings the opportunity to learn and grow. Each new person you meet is unique and unrepeatable; a person you can help, and a potential future resource. It all circles back to the mindset of giving.

6. Know Your People

In the beginning, it’s easiest to feel at ease in environments that feel familiar. Choose your networking opportunities with care, and begin where you fit in best. Make sure to memorize their names. That is an essential step that goes a long way.  The options are many; professional development environments, conferences, classes, community service settings, and much more. Try some new hobbies and invite your connections. Once you’ve gotten some practice, you can branch out to different and more diverse types of groups and meeting settings.

7. Collaborate

Opportunities for productive networking abound, even at events that are focused mostly on your industry. Events like these provide a chance to bounce off ideas, share and receive advice, and learn from others’ successes and challenges. Possibilities for high-quality referrals open up as well; the “know, like, and trust” factor also applies to colleagues and so-called competitors. Be generous with your ideas and expertise; it’s possible to protect proprietary information and have an open attitude at the same time. Help connect people. Some just need to be connected to the right person to make an incredibly productive group. They can benefit from the connection and there’s a good chance they’ll remember you down the line.

8. Learn As You Go

Don’t overthink things. Once you’ve made a decision, just do it. Then repeat. The more often you network, the easier it will become, and the more skilled you’ll be. You never want to stop learning. Soon, behaviors associated with authentic networking will be second nature. In addition to new and positive connections, you’ll grow in confidence — and the benefits will snowball.

9. Take Care of Your People

It can be all too easy to take long-standing relationships for granted. You might have noticed this tendency in your personal life. This applies to business as well. Make time to show care and appreciation to people who have helped you along the way to get to where you are now. Send an appreciative email or forward a great link or article. Ask about their day and be nice. Schedule a date for a no-agenda coffee meeting or lunch to catch up. Make an introduction to someone they normally don’t have access to. Enjoy the interaction and connection you’ve helped to create.

10. Follow Up Consistently

Networking really starts after you’ve received that contact information. Once you’ve received that business card or email address, go into your contact list and add the person with as much identifying information as you can remember. If you take part in online business networks, add them within a reasonable amount of time. It’s a way for you to maintain a friendly connection and casually observe their method of doing things. At some point, there might be a way you can help them out, or a connection you can help them make. The particulars don’t matter as much as taking the time and making the effort to connect in a sincere, natural way.

Building a network is a holistic process that involves attention to the foundations of human relationships. Try these ideas to build a strong, reliable one.

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