Networks, whether they are personal or professional, have to be built and maintained over time if you want to gain lasting benefits from them. The way you do this is by creating solid relationships with the people within your network.
It all starts with who you invite into your network. Smart networkers understand the investment of time involved in relationship building and therefore don’t overextend their networks. It’s a strategic balancing act of maintaining relationships, forging new ones and letting some ties slip away when necessary. Here are our top networking tactics for building strong relationships in the short term and long term.
Work on Your Interpersonal Skills
The strongest networks are those that have diversity, which means you can’t take a one-off approach when interacting with people. Instead, you have to hone your interpersonal skills and adjust your communication style depending on the person you’re talking to at the moment. As a businessperson or entrepreneur, you’re going to come across people from all walks of life, so obtaining these skills is crucial to succeeding in your endeavors.
Create a Bond
The more you know about someone on a personal level the more opportunity there is to make a meaningful bond with them. Find the things that you share in common and build a foundation from there. People often feel that others who have had similar life experiences or outlooks can be trusted and will understand them better.
Find a Shared Sense of Purpose
Purpose is what drives us to make goals and strive to achieve great things. When people have a common purpose it is a strong emotional connector. Don’t be afraid to let others know what your ONE Thing in life is and to seek out others who share that same purpose. If you find a common purpose with someone else, it can provide a great opportunity to work together or source that person as you both continue along the same path.
Relationships are all about give and take. It’s called the Law of Reciprocity. Extending a hand when someone is in need can lead to a fruitful relationship. Be conscious of how much you are giving back to the people in your networks. Connect people within your networks, provide industry insight and provide assistance with projects – in short help out whenever you can.
Invest in Their Success
Be vocal about wanting to help your network buddies become successful, whether it be in business, family or social work. Network relationships should be built on the idea of a win-win scenario for everyone.
Shake Their Hand
While virtual networking is beneficial, social media and email shouldn’t be the sole source of contact. Take the time to meet with people in person at networking events, lunches and social gatherings. Researchers on physical touch have documented that there are numerous physical health benefits from a simple shake of hands. These studies suggest that touch is fundamental to human communication, bonding and health.
Show That You’re Trustworthy
Trust is the key relationship builder of any network, especially in the workplace. Being confident, optimistic and authentic are all trust boosters. Acting with integrity is a must, and you also have to be true to your word. When you make a promise, keep it. Never over-promise then under-deliver.
Use the VPN Model to Gauge Where Your Relationships Are At
Chairman and founder of BNI, Ivan Misner shared his VPN model with Entrepreneur.com. It’s based on the idea that relationships go through three phases: visibility, credibility and profitability. The VPN model is a method of assessing where a relationship is at and how best to nurture it.
Networking doesn’t really pay off unless you follow up and build strong relationships. Remember, each relationship is unique, but they all start off with reservations and great expectations. How you build the relationship will determine if those expectations get met.