5 Ways to Improve Your Networking Skills & Expand Your Business Connections

connections
Image by: Fabricio Zuardi
By Mike Ventura

Building a brand or a business doesn’t have to come with blood, sweat and tears. If you’re savvy enough, your mouth and your attitude can get you further than you think. Think of a successful business as a sturdy tower of Legos. The company is built on connections, building blocks of people who can help you over hurdles and connect you to other people who will bring your brand to life.

People are everywhere, you just have to know how to go out and fish for them.

#1) Building a Network

Chances are you already have a small group of business minded people in your life. These are the people that have brainstormed with you, given you important phone numbers and followed up when those meetings came to their conclusion. This is your network, but like all groups, the network is only as successful as the sum of its parts.

Connecting with the right people can help you land your next job, partner with someone on an important project and move when you have found the job you really love. If you want it, you have to go out and get it. You have to use your voice.

#2) Get Social

 Some successful business men and woman swear by social mixers and for good reason. They are the perfect place to perfect the art of networking. Invitation based events for people in your field are probably being held in the city nearest to you right now. These events, no matter how staged, are crucial.

One way to connect is to reach out on social media. LinkedIn is a great way to connect to people in your field, find out what’s going on, and schedule time to meet with like-minded individuals. All you have to do is search for your field in the search bar.

Become active in your college alumni circles. There isn’t a college out there that doesn’t have ways for it’s graduates to find each other. These could be the people that help you connect based on your school alone and they’ll do it at networking events held specifically for people from your college or university.

#3) Stay Active & Maintain Relationships

Think of business contacts as a complicated friendship. Friends have needs, and business contacts will disappear if they aren’t kept front of mind. After a mixer or formal introduction always follow up. Think of every free moment as an opportunity to email or cold call your new contacts. Keep key words, phrases and facts in mind to keep the conversation going and never forget why you’ve connected with them in the first place.

A lost art is the ability to write a good thank-you note. Nobody gets mail these days. Mix it up, invest in a few stamps and get your contacts remembering who you are and what you’re all about.

If you’ve connected with a contact online, there is no excuse to not stay in touch.

#4) Stay Visible

 Selling your business or brand to someone else isn’t hard if you have people talking. Using social media to connect is one way to get your name out there, but it’s only the beginning of a rather long road.

Build a website and make it user-friendly. Outline your business, your model and your goals right there in black and white. Sometimes seeing it and saying it are two different things and a website will give you a credibility that conversation alone lacks.

Invest in good business cards. You are your biggest asset. Sell yourself and know that every conversation is an opportunity to sell. Blake Mycoskie, the 38-year-old founder of the TOMS shoe brand said it best in his book, Start Something That Matters:

“The lesson: The power of your story isn’t just a way to connect to your ultimate consumer but is also a means of making you attractive to potential partners who want to attach themselves to something deeper than buying and selling.”

#5) Live & Breathe Your Business

If you don’t believe in it, nobody else will. Become your own cheerleader and make sure everyone knows who you are and what you want.

Use every opportunity to talk about or grow your idea into something that will make you capital. Never forget a face and don’t be shy about telling people why they should think your business is best. Network from the moment you wake up. If you’re passionate about your endeavors, your zeal will become contagious.

Do you have any suggestions to add to the conversation?  We want to hear your success stories as well as what you learned didn’t work.  Please share the wisdom, you might learn something new!