Effective networking, like anything, is a skill that needs to be exercised and honed.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “it isn’t what you know, but who you know.” Developing connections is the cornerstone of any successful business.
Effective networking provides the opportunity to learn from the experiences of others, promote your brand, and build new clientele. Networking that leads to opportunity is born out of persistence, dedication, and the willingness to develop surface-level interactions into meaningful relationships. But, these relationships don’t happen overnight.
As an entrepreneur, you can never know too many people. Still, the best network values quality over quantity.
Handing out your business cards to a thousand people might lead to a few extra clicks and a passing interest in your business, but having a meaningful conversation with just five people can have an even greater impact. The key here is making a true connection.
To be most effective, you must show genuine interest in those with whom you’re talking. Take the time to sit down and get to know people one-on-one. The goal isn’t to spam your connections solely for the purpose of what you can get out of them. People tend to know when they are being used as a means to an end. Instead, take an interest in their ideas and offer yourself as a resource.
If you see an opportunity to give meaningful advice, even if it doesn’t benefit you, do it. Giving without the implication of reciprocation builds trust and loyalty. You are planting seeds that have the potential to blossom into something greater. You won’t always be the recipient of that fruit, but when you are, it can be very rewarding.
Rethink Your Network
Entrepreneurs tend to think of the word “network” as a verb, as something you should be doing to advance your own cause. But if you take a moment to step back and see a “network” for the noun that it is, it can be very enlightening.
In its simplest form, a network is a collection of dots. Those dots are joined by connections. Your network is all the dots that you know. There are billions of dots out there, and many of them hold the potential for expanding your clientele and growing your business.
If you focus on simply collecting as many dots as you can, you might end up with a huge contact list, but still miss the whole point of having a network. If all those connections remain surface level because they know you only care about advancing yourself, you will have a collection of dots made of people who aren’t compelled to help your cause.
However, when you make the effort to build real connections and help others grow, you end up with something else entirely. You’ll have a whole network of people who are aware of what you do—and have a more vested interest in your success.
That is exponential influence. It’s these mutually beneficial relationships that make networking the most effective.
Think of it this way, every person knows someone that someone else should know. The next time you grab a coffee with an individual in your network, consider who in your contact list might benefit from a connection with this person. You just might be the impetus that could change someone’s life.
As you begin rethinking your network, you might wonder, “Where should I start?”
Don’t focus solely on new contacts to find prospective clients or partnerships. You have put in the time with people already on your contact list. Check in on them. See where they’re at and find out whether they are ready to reengage with you or your business.
You are growing and evolving all the time, and so are your old contacts. If it has been a while since you last spoke, there’s a good chance they have developed new relationships or affiliations that might help you as well.
Reengaging with an old contact just might unearth a new goldmine for potential clients for you and be beneficial for the old contact’s network too.
Practice Makes Better
Be willing to learn. No matter how many years of experience you have in your field or how successful you have been, you can always become better at what you do. There are people who have tips that can improve your business, but if you aren’t putting yourself out there, you may never meet them. You’ll miss huge opportunities to take your business to the next level.
Some people look at extremely successful entrepreneurs and assume it was just luck of the draw that got them where they are. Although it is possible that luck played a part, it’s more likely they made a habit of engaging with people; specifically, with professionals in their field that created the networking connections to open the right doors.
You may be thinking, “This all sounds great in theory, but I’m naturally an introvert.” That’s OK. Networking isn’t just for the 50% to 70% of the population who consider themselves extroverts. Networking is vital to anyone in any field looking to grow, expand their business, or change career paths. Life will present you with plenty of opportunities to do all three. So, the sooner you develop your networking skills, the greater potential you have to reach your goals. It just takes practice.
Effective networking, like anything, is a skill that needs to be exercised and honed. Ty Cobb, the baseball legend with the best career batting average in the history of the Major Leagues, missed the ball two out of every three times he went to bat. Missing the ball doesn’t equal failure; it’s part of the game. The more you put yourself out there, the more practice you will get, and the better chance you have of making a meaningful connection.
The bottom line? Get out there and start taking more swings. You never know who might lead you to your next investment or career opportunity.
Kurt Coleman brings a wealth of skills and experience to the RALAcademy team, a company that corners the market in the residential assisted living niche.
A graduate of Arizona State University with years of experience as a team leader, systems developer, and writer, Coleman is the lead copywriter for RALAcademy.
He loves writing and sharing with investors how to use their skills, know-how, and expertise in the real estate industry to translate into this new exciting niche.Riehl held top leadership positions as head of commercial lending for Ocwen Mortgage, head of unsecured lending for Citibank, global mortgage leader for GE Capital, and head of construction products at Fannie Mae. He is a member of the Harvard Joint Centers for Housing Studies.