improve networking skills

5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Networking Skills and Build Successful Relationships

The process of networking itself is simple. Just show up to events and initiate conversation. True, even that part can be hard for people. However, that isn’t really the hardest part!  The hardest part is the follow through.

When I was first introduced to the networking scene after I got out of grad school, I was a little clueless about how to do it exactly. I wanted to find people that would be able to help me get to where I wanted to be faster. I took advantage of the idea that there’s plenty of people out there who want to help new graduates move forward in their career. Not once did I really think about who I should be talking to.

Today, I have realized that there are 4 types of people that will be key to your success as an entrepreneur – whether you’re online, or offline. They are:

  1. A mentor (virtual or not) – Someone you see yourself emulating as you grow your business. A working relationship with this person is a plus. Their job is to be the best version of themselves so that you have a target to keep shooting for.
  2. A Tribe – A group of people that like what you do because you give value to the group as a whole.
  3. A Mastermind – A small group of peers that are going in the same direction as yourself.
  4. A Coach – Someone that gives you feedback on your growth and helps you figure out answers to questions you have. Their job is to help you be a better you.

(If you want to find out more about these different types of people and why they’re important to network with, you can do so by grabbing my resource: 6 Cornerstones to Building a Successful Online Business.)

Once you find these people, you need to be able to build meaningful relationships with them so they don’t leave your life as quickly as they entered. So here are some quick tips in doing just that.

Be In It to Win It

There’s no way around it. Winners like to surround themselves with other winners. If you’re wanting to get to know those that are at your level or above and want to keep them around, you’re going to have to have a mind-set that you’re going to succeed at your business.

This means that you’re going to have to have a long-term mentality to not only the decisions you make, but also realize that just because someone isn’t currently talking to you (and might not have for the past couple of months), doesn’t mean that they don’t “like” you anymore. Just like you should be, other solopreneurs and entrepreneurs in general are pretty damn busy. Get used to it!

Become a Go-To Person

Before you become a Go-To person in any field you need to have spent some quality time learning about that field. This is equally true for creative entrepreneurs as much as it is for engineers, realtors, insurance agents, etc.

The more you know about a certain subject, the more people will seek your knowledge out.

One thing that my mom always preached as I was growing up was that education is key to life. In fact, it was the one thing that she believed that worth pouring a small fortune into when the time arises. As you might know, it took me 6 years to get through my undergrad. She was totally ok with this as she would remind again and again, “when you look back on how long it took you to actually get through something worthwhile, you’ll realize, in the end, that it was worth it regardless of how long the process was”.

While I might not be directly using that knowledge that I picked up during those years, I will say that it has helped me become the person I am, help mold the way I think, and also introduce me to some of the best minds I know.

Give More Value Than You Seek

Many of us have superpowers that we try keep to ourselves. In the book, Will It Fly?, Pat Flynn talks about finding your superpowers early on in the book to figure out what you’re naturally good at doing so that you can make a business from it.

According to the results I got from the exercise in the book, my top 4 superpowers are:

  • Connecting
  • Teaching
  • Seeing Possibility
  • Loyalty

And you know what? I’d totally agree with this.

However, what he didn’t mention is that those same superpowers can help you even when you’re not trying to actively build your business. And, in fact, I think you should use them as much as possible.

Are you connector like me? Then introduce new ideas and people to each other without a fee. Are you a great coach? Then coach people here and there pro bono.

Eventually, others will know you for what you’re good at and all that good kharma that you’re putting out there will come back to you.

Treat Others by How You’d Want to be Treated

Meaning, treat them like a person.

Only celebrities are going to have crazy amounts of followers when they first open an account on a new social media platform. If you start using Periscope to build your business and you have one viewer, start engaging with that viewer. Make them feel like they’re not invisible.

The more you do this, the more likely that person will subscribe. The next time you come on, they might be there and so might another. Engage with both of them. Then you might have two subscribers.

The second one then might share you to their friends and the next time you hop on, you might have 5 viewers. Engage with them all. Ask them what they’re thinking about the topic. Find out where they’re from. Actually care about who you’re talking to.

No one cares what you know until you show how much you care.

Accept More Responsibility by Being More Intentional

Here’s one that we all struggle with in some manner or another. From a young age, many of us believe that if we can get people to not pay attention to us, then we won’t get in trouble as much. As a kid, this definitely has some merit to it!

If we’re known to be someone that doesn’t break things, when something does end up being broken, we can simply say “It wasn’t my fault!” and the grown-ups will go find someone else that has a dirtier track record.

However, this approach might not necessarily be useful later in life when we want to be recognized for our efforts.

If you’re the type of individual who wants to be recognized, you have to get on people’s radar first. There’s plenty of ways to do this.

If someone has a major life event on Facebook, even if you haven’t spoken to that person in a while (if ever), say something. Not only will you have a better chance of being recognized by that person in the future, Facebook will actually start sharing your posts with this person (unless they blocked you). Posting on people’s walls on birthdays is a great way to start.

A few other old school ways to start getting recognized is taking people out for coffee or lunch. Going to events you normally don’t go to and just calling more people up (either by phone or through skype) is great ways to build your reputation.

Also, if you’re in an organization or group of people where something goes south, and you’re known for having a good record, chances are that if you take responsibility for that situation, you might look better for trying to take the blame from whomever actually did. Even if you don’t have a good track record, you might get some recognition for actually taking responsibility. When we live in a society where many people try to shy away from responsibility, those that attempt to take it (good or bad) tend to get recognized.

Action Steps:

So, there you have it. Five ways I believe that will help you build better relationships as you go forward and meet those future great friends.

It’s fairly common sense stuff, really. However, as we all know – common sense isn’t commonly used in today’s world. It’s amazing what doing these tactics will do for you.

If you already employ some of these tactics, I’d love to hear some details in what works. Comment below!

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