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As an entrepreneur, you’ll often need access to cross-industry opportunities, insights from people of different expertise, and some good references from people who have worked with you in the past. In other words, building a professional network matters, as otherwise, you risk a higher likelihood of missed opportunities and slower business growth. Here are some strategies that can help you build a strong network of professionals.
1. Be Authentic
This strategy can also be regarded as a principle. If you’re not trustworthy, you’ll have a hard time building and conserving a good reputation as an entrepreneur. Specific aspects related to authenticity include being transparent about your intentions and consistent so that people don’t find you unreasonably unpredictable.
One thing to keep in mind is that when you meet someone who can help you, they’ll more often than not know that you have an interest in what they can offer. To build a strong relationship, you either need to prove genuine interest in them or convince them that you can offer something in return.
2. Use Online Platforms
While significant relationships may be harder to establish in the virtual environment, their role will continue to increase in the years to come, especially as online communication becomes less and less different from communication taking place in a physical space.
Platforms such as LinkedIn are an easy way to connect with professionals from related industries. In addition, these platforms can be used to share ideas, participate in discussions, and establish thought leadership in a particular field. In other words, they are the place where you can go to prove your expertise, learn from others, and stay updated with trends in your industry.
Two important advantages of online networks are reach and scalability. While traditional networking methods are typically limited by geographical constraints, online platforms aren’t. Do you want to participate in a webinar hosted on the other side of the planet? Now you can.
Last but not least, virtual networks can occasionally evolve into something more. Connecting with strangers from your field may bring you new business partners, clients, or even friends. The extent to which you’ll manage to get the best out of online professional network platforms will be influenced by the amount of time you’ll be willing to dedicate to them.
3. Use People Search Engines
Regardless of whether you meet someone in person or on a social platform, you’ll sometimes need to find information about someone’s background before deciding whether you can trust that person or not. One way to do so is by using people search websites, which are specialized search engines that gather public data from all sorts of places.
One example is Nuwber, a people search website that allows you to find information on individuals, their phone numbers, emails, and addresses. For instance, you can use the platform to find a person’s social media accounts and other details that might be relevant to your business.
4. Participate in Networking Events
Before the Internet, one of the easiest ways of connecting with other people from your industry was through networking events. Even today, this strategy can still lead you to make new business partners and even friends.
Examples of such events include industry conferences, business meetups, seminars, and company social gatherings. If you’re social enough, this approach may be one of your best bets to engage with peers and potential partners. To make the best of it, plan in advance how you’ll introduce yourself and your ideas so that you increase your chances of making a strong impression.
5. Join Professional Organizations
This strategy is partly related to the earlier one, as being a member of a professional may give you more opportunities to participate in business events that are relevant to your industry. For example, many professional organizations host conferences, workshops, and other networking events where like-minded professionals participate. By being a member yourself, you’ll have additional opportunities to stay updated with the latest in your industry while connecting with other professionals.
6. Follow Up
In many cases, getting someone’s attention isn’t even the hardest part of your network-building strategy. In other words, you often have to follow up as quickly as possible, or otherwise, your new contact might lose interest or have their attention captured by someone else.
This consideration is especially true when it comes to pitching business ideas to someone you’ve just met. If there are signs that the person is interested, don’t assume anything until a deal is closed. If, for example, they’ve given you their contact details, don’t wait too long before you reach out and make the best out of your opportunity.
7. Take a Close Look at Your Social Behavior
If you’re introverted, chances are it’ll be more difficult for you to establish professional networks in contexts where you need to take the lead and approach people who would not approach you. Returning to the earlier example, you’ll likely have a harder time pitching your business idea to a high-profile individual at a business gathering if you have difficulties joining conversations without being invited.
As an introvert, you have two obvious options. One option is to work harder to establish meaningful connections in the online environment or in physical settings where you don’t need to take an active role. Another option is to challenge yourself by exposing yourself to social situations in ways that you haven’t tested before.
Bottom Line: Choose the Strategies That Work Best for You
As you can see, there are many ways to connect with professionals in your networks and this article doesn’t even count as a complete list. With so many options available, you have to decide which strategies are the most likely to work for you.
Choosing one approach over the other should be informed by your own needs and preferences. For instance, if you need to pitch a business idea to a high-profile individual who lives hundreds of miles away or is unapproachable, trying to establish a LinkedIn connection is probably the best option. If, on the other hand, you have the chance to have a face-to-face conversation, you may want to try your luck in this way and only switch to other strategies if your first one hasn’t worked. Regardless of your choice, you may want to keep in mind that connections are not that difficult to establish; another thing is to actually make those connections meaningful.
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