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By Citizens Bank Staff
Most successful business owners are surrounded by a strong professional network. In the 2019 Citizens Bank Women-Owned Businesses survey, the leaders of the top-performing businesses were 50% more likely than their peers to cite support from their network as a contributor to their success. They were also twice as likely to tap their networks for business advice.
Networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but with some effort, it can feel more comfortable — and even enjoyable. Learn how to boost your networking know-how and get the most from your efforts.
Your company website, LinkedIn profile, and other professional pages will help your networking contacts learn more about you and shape their impression of you and your business. Review these pages and update them if needed. For example, you might refine your LinkedIn summary or add a new blog post on a timely topic to your website.
Though you want to be relaxed and unscripted when meeting people, it can help to rehearse a quick description of your company, your experience, and your networking goals. For example, if your company provides marketing services for healthcare organizations, you might note that you are looking to expand your business with dental practices. Rehearse speaking about your company and your personal business achievements in a succinct, jargon-free way.
A golden rule of networking is to give before trying to get. That means listen more than you talk, and take a genuine interest in what others have to say. Look for opportunities to offer help — for example, offer to make an introduction or even send an article or report related to their work. Approaching networking with a service mindset will pay off, though it may not be immediate.
Referencing specific details from your conversations can help you forge new connections more easily. To help with this, consider taking notes about people and discussions immediately following an event, while the details are fresh. The backs of new contacts’ business cards and the notes app on your phone are two good, short-term places to store this information. Include personal details, short anecdotes, or important events, such as a big meeting or proposal. When you’re next in touch with a new contact, bring up a point from your conversation or ask how the big event went.
Try to reach out to people within a day or two after meeting them. Invite new contacts to connect on LinkedIn and follow them or their companies on Twitter, if that feels appropriate. Follow through on anything you said you would do, such as making an introduction or sending an article or report.
After that first follow-up, the real work of nurturing new relationships begins. Stay in touch by commenting on connections’ social media posts, or send relevant information or articles when you see them. It may help to schedule reminders to reach out to people you want to stay in touch with — a short, friendly note every month or two can help to keep the connections alive.
As you work to build your network, don’t lose sight of the professional relationships you already have. If it has been a while since you reached out to a valued connection, send a quick note to re-establish contact. You won’t have time to maintain every relationship, so do your best to prioritize. Be helpful, generous, and consistent with follow-up to get the most from your networking efforts.
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