Effective networking requires seeking out authentic connections to build mutually beneficial business relationships. But if your business network is scarce or even non-existent, how do you expand it?
Read on for five techniques you can use to start expanding your business network today.
Leveraging existing connections to build new ones makes networking more natural and less forced. This is why one of the easiest ways to expand your business network is to analyze your existing network.
Then, seek out second or third-degree connections with these individuals. These might be current or former colleagues, clients or even fellow alumni. You are already trusted members of these individuals' networks. This means that they can recommend or even introduce you to their connections without hesitation.
Networking events with the highest potential for success will depend on your industry. Find out where industry influencers engage with the business community. Chances are high that a networking mixer, trade show, workshop or business luncheon is taking place at a venue near you. Identify a venue that aligns with your goals for the event. Then, plan to attend on a date when the individuals you want to meet will also be in attendance.
You rarely get much value out of a networking event if you do not have a pre-determined goal in mind. For example, if you attend a networking mixer, you might resolve to introduce yourself to a particular influencer in the industry.
Or, if you go to a trade show, you might aim to secure a meeting with one or more prospective customers. Whatever you hope to gain from the event, ensure that you know it before you articulate it to potential business partners, clients or customers. Mentally preparing a brief elevator pitch of your business to share with contacts can remove the stress from new introductions.
Successful business relationships are a two-way street. You should look at networking events not only as an opportunity to get something you need from someone but to give something back.
For example, let's say that a new contact offers to pass along your business card to a connection or recommend you for a business engagement. This is a great time for you to offer your time or resources to help their business in a meaningful way. Small but sincere gestures can go far in demonstrating your commitment to a mutually beneficial business relationship.
Even confident business leaders can have a tendency to flock toward individuals they already know at a networking event. But it's difficult to expand your business network if you resolve to cling to the contacts you already have.
Don't be afraid to introduce yourself to new faces. The advantage of being at a networking event is that everyone is in the same boat. The majority of the people you meet will be eager to hear your story if you are only willing to lend an ear and listen to theirs.