There is no secret to building your network of contacts. There are many resources out there giving tips on building relationships and expanding your realm of influence, but are they the right ones for you? There are basic principals that can have an impact on how successful you’re networking and strategies are.
What is the point of business networking? It is the process of building relationships with businesses and business owners, to increase your influence and position.
There are two things to remember – building relationships and increasing your influence.
Relationships = increase your influence which = opportunity.
The most valuable thing in business is the relationships that are built. The quality of the relationships can have a huge impact on the outcome with existing and potential clients. Focus on building and maintaining positive relationships with your contacts, you will quickly begin to increase your influence and your bottom line.
How do you build good relationships with new contacts? All relationships follow similar patterns, you meet, follow-up, build, interact, commit. There is room to build relationships between each one for different levels of influence, but most relationships in business usually fall somewhere in these five areas.
First you will meet people, give a brief intro about who you are, then quickly turn the attention to them. Find out who they are, who is a good referral for them, exchange contact info, then it is up to you to determine if this person is someone you want to build a relationship with. Will they be a good resource, referral partner, or is this someone that’s just after the almighty dollar for themselves. Once you determine that this is a good partnership or not, proceed in a professional manner. However, remember that building a relationship is a two way street. You get and you give… it is NOT a one way street.
Following up is where most people drop the ball. You need to make a point of following up once you have made the initial connection. You can loose out on a potential referral, you could loose out on a potential client, you loose out on a opportunity to get connected to a whole different network of contacts, and you can loose credibility by not following up when you expressed an interest.
Once you get through the follow-up process, your hope is for a good response from the people you contact. When good replies are made (either by phone or email), you gain an opportunity to start building a relationship with the contact. The next step is usually the opportunity to share usable information, such as potential leads for each of you, a request for proposal or a request to offer a proposal for services.
After you have spoken with your contacts over a period of time, you begin to develop a relationship with them. At this point, you both know each other and each others businesses. This opens the door to do business with them or send referrals to them. Most business relationships don’t grow past this point, but if you continue to follow up with them and remain in contact, most times you will either get a lead or be able to give a lead to someone you stay in contact with.
The last step in building the relationship process is developing a commitment.. This is not necessarily a formal commitment, but a verbal agreement that you both will continue to work at helping each other grow your businesses together. Hopefully this new relationship also brings you a new customer or a referral that turns into a client, either way, you have built a new business relationship that will only grow from here.