A great plan, a capable team, and hard work all go into making the best companies thrive, but there’s one intangible that no entrepreneur can live without: a robust professional network. The people you call upon for advice, new leads, happenings and more are the lifeblood of business success in every industry.
Strong relationships take years to build, and new entrants to the business world may be at a loss as to how they should get started. After several decades in the highly competitive New York real estate business, I’ve been able to glean the best methods for building and keeping a great contacts list. These keys to networking can elevate your business into the success you’ve always hoped for.
Do Your Homework
Thanks to the internet, just about every important person in your industry (not just social media-loving millennials) will have some kind of web presence. This makes the ground work simple: check out their LinkedIn or other online profiles to get an idea of who they are before you meet them. If you’ve got a big event coming up, look into the featured guests and speakers to find out if they’d be a good fit in your contacts list.
Even a great first meeting won’t make your contact a permanent connection. You’ll need to follow up soon afterward in order to make an impression. Reach out via social media, or a cold call during the work week. Some friendly chat builds a rapport that one day can turn into a great business opportunity. A group lunch or even a brief coffee meeting can be the start of a highly beneficial relationship.
Listen More Than You Talk
Good connections are built on the power of good conversation. In the business world, you’re certainly going to want to tout your company to those you’re networking with, but a one-sided conversation gets old fast. Nobody will want to re-link with someone who bores them to death. Don’t forget that your counterparts are probably in the same boat as you, and eager to talk about their own business. Pay attention and ask questions, and you’ll be the kind of person industry players are happy to be around.
Keep It Real
If you’re newer to the industry, or this particular connection has a great deal of clout, it can be a little intimidating to stick your neck out. It’s important to always be in touch with your own goals, and to honestly share those with your peers. In a phrase: be yourself! It’s a cliche, but that’s because it’s the truth. If you’re uncertain about your own intentions, that comes across as dishonest and wishy-washy: don’t forget these are people who value their time as much as you do your own. The decision to form a professional connection is a mutual one, so if they don’t end up liking you, that’s life. Best to be who you are, and not make friends based on misrepresentation.
Remember, these are all key ideas to hold onto but building a network isn’t a matter of checking off boxes on a list. A truly great network is comprised of friendships--it takes time, care and consideration for them to become something meaningful, and connecting on a level deeper than the achievement of professional goals.
Much of what goes into a good personal relationship can be applied to professional ones. As with meeting a new friend or going on a first date, fostering an industry connection is all about making a good impression. That doesn’t come from a stacked resume or impressive degree-it comes from being yourself and making the right moves.