When most people think of networking, they envision adding people to their Rolodex that can potentially be of benefit to them in the future. But that’s only one side of the coin, and many forget that effective networking involves a mutually beneficial exchange. It’s less about grabbing someone’s business card and more about building a lasting holistic partnership.
Here are four ways to organically build a valuable professional network:
Help others. It’s not about what a person can give you, but rather what you bring to the table. Have a policy of doing favors for others before ever asking for one. There may not be an immediate benefit, but there may be one down the road. Making a habit of helping people for the sake of building good relationships is good business karma.
Keep in touch. Even if you don’t currently need that person’s professional assistance or services you should maintain a healthy flow of communication. It shows that you care about your connection and it keeps you fresh in the other person’s mind. Others will think about you when they have an opportunity that may be of interest.
Meet on their terms. It’s always good to push for a face-to-face meeting and rely upon a phone call or email as a secondary form of communication. However, it’s important to find out by which method people prefer to be contacted. Some are flooded with emails, others hate texts. Your mode and method of communication can determine how you will be received by a prospect.
Build relationships one by one. There’s no need to grab someone’s carbon copied email list and try to turn it into business leads. Even when mass E-mailing or contacting people on a broader scale, be sure to invite them to contact you back in a more personal way. After all, the only thing worse than stealing contacts is stealing friends, so expand your network without making a mess of your reputation.
Live by these four rules and, over time, your network will grow to a point where you will never need to sell yourself or your company again; your relationships will do all of the work for you while you sit back and reap the rewards.
Kimberly E. Stone is the founder of POSHGLAM and specializes in relationship management and strategic communications. Tamara Franklin specializes in creative content and professional writing services for business and technology. Follow Kimberly, Tamara and On Small Business on Twitter.