Arguably one of the most important tasks for an entrepreneur to overtake is the ability to successfully network. Entrepreneurs that have a strong network will have a much easier time gaining opportunities in every industry than those without one. Networking seems like a huge undertaking for many new entrepreneurs and even seasoned businessmen when thinking about it abstractly, however, there are steps anyone can take in order to gain a world-class network and the opportunities that come along with it.
Always Be Prepared
Come up with a few short sentences that you will be able to say to anyone you meet that will give them an indication of who you are and what you stand for. Be confident but also try not be boastful or arrogant. Always be willing to hear the other person’s responses and try to find common ground between the two of you.
Know Where to Network
Don’t be afraid to attend networking functions in your industry. Seminars in your field can be excellent ways to meet contacts. If you have an acquaintance attending a seminar, ask if you can be introduced to some of their connections. If you don’t know anyone at the seminar, it could still be a great success if you mingle and meet people in your field. It may seem overwhelming at first, but most people are approachable if you are interested in what they have to say.
You don’t have to attend a seminar or other networking function to meet new connections for your network. Ask people in your current network if they would be willing to introduce you to someone they know in your field that is successful. You never know who your network knows, and having someone you know to bridge the connection could be extremely helpful in building your network.
Network at Every Chance You Get
Even when you have an excellent network of many important contacts, you should still always be networking. Not only will your contacts give you access to more opportunities in the future, but they should also be seen as lifelong contacts and even friends. One of the best ways to access new contacts is by giving your time back to the community. Volunteering will easily expand your network’s reach as well as build a worthwhile relationship with a community focused organization.
Connect with the person on professional sites like LinkedIn and send a follow-up email, if possible, after meeting the person initially. Following up shouldn’t just be done after the first introduction. Periodically check in with your networking contacts to see how their professional career is progressing. Always be willing to lend them a helping hand by providing advice and references when asked. Building a network is not just about meeting new people, it’s also about fostering the relationships you make for years to come.