5 smart ways to build business connections
Most people will go to events and conferences, shake hands with a few individuals, exchange business cards and rest assured they have done their bit of networking. But that’s not how it works if you want to be successful.
Networking isn’t just about making contacts. It’s a relationship-building exercise. You’ve got to think long-term.
According to Joan Kingsley, psychotherapist and co-author of The Fear-Free Organization: Vital Insights from Neuroscience to Transform your Business Culture: “The whole point of networking is to build networks.” Kingsley adds, “Building networks means taking the time to develop strong relationships that will endure over time and add value to your business and your life.”
Think it’s time to revamp your Rolodex? Here are some networking tips to help you get ahead in your career.
1. Be a middleman:
Connect people who aren’t familiar with each other and who will benefit from the association.
“What’s great about this type of networking is you’re helping two people at once,” Marina Krakovsky, author of The Middleman Economy: How Brokers, Agents, Dealers and Everyday Matchmakers Create Value and Profit, told Rewire Me. “What you get out of it is gratitude from both parties – you’re doing them a favor, which they might reciprocate down the road.” Moreover, you will develop the reputation for being trustworthy and helpful.
2. Mix fun with business:
Networking isn’t done just at conferences and seminars. If you meet a potential start-up partner at an event, find common interests, and quickly take things forward.
“Remember that people do business on the golf course, while playing tennis or going to music events,” Kingsley says. When you meet business people in non-formal settings, be yourself. “Identify your strengths and operate from them. If you’re an extrovert, use your warmth and friendly nature to connect. If you’re an introvert, then be the best listener you can be.”
3. Follow up:
Building business connections is much like maintaining friendships. If you want to remain fresh in people’s minds, follow up and ask how they are doing and if there are new developments in their business. “Pick up the phone and call, but don’t ask to meet to talk about your business,” Christine Allen, a workplace psychologist, says. “Offer to learn more about what the other person does and to see how you can help one another.” Make use of social media. Engage your contacts on social media platforms, such as Twitter and LinkedIn. Email them links to articles they might find useful.
4. Do your homework:
Conferences aren’t picnics. Treat them like missions.
“Prepare ahead of time for the conference or event,” Kingsley says. “Find out about who is attending and have some talking points prepared.” Do some research on people who are attending—read their Twitter and LinkedIn feeds. This will help you kick-start meaningful conversations with attendees, which is so much better than engaging in mundane small talk about weather. Go the extra mile. Think: how you can help them? Maybe there’s a glitch on their website, and you know how to fix it?
5. Be adventurous:
If you want to make the most of a conference, drive yourself out of your comfort zone.
“One common networking mistake is avoiding taking risks,” Allen says. “For example, talking too long to people you already know or avoiding talking to the people that would be most important to talk with or leaving early, rationalizing that there aren’t really any good prospects at the event.” Get involved. Ask questions during presentations. Somebody with similar business interests might notice you. That could change your game.
Don’t think of networking as a chore. It’s an integral part of your professional life. Learn to love it.