Everyone has heard the saying there is only six degrees of separation from you and everyone else in the world and social media is shrinking this number with only 3.74 people between each Facebook user. When is the last time you have taken advantage of this and tapped into your network to fulfill your business needs? Networking is a powerful tool to enhance your business practices, share ideas, build rapport and fulfill your business objectives.
Take advantage of your connections with these four quick tips to optimize your business and personal network:
- Ask yourself how can I help other people?
Never assume that someone is going to help you just because you asked. Be polite and courteous, instead of asking for the favor right away, allow time to build a relationship and create an understanding of why this endeavor is mutually beneficial.
Approaching a need from this point of view increases the likelihood that someone will agree to helping you, making it easier and quicker to approach this person in the future.
Tip: Take the person out for coffee, lunch or a drink, to get to know them better. Don’t dive right into asking for a favor; explain to the person why what you need from them is important and how you can help them in return.
- Go beyond your immediate circle
Looking beyond your industry often means looking beyond your primary network. The closer you are to a person can be limiting because you share similar knowledge and experience.
Think of what your business needs are right now, then about who you know. Who are the best people to help you effectively meet your needs? Remember we often learn the most from people who are the least like us.
Tip: LinkedIn makes making connections easy, by allowing members to make “introductions” through another contact in their network.
If someone in your network is connected to person you don’t know but is someone you would like to meet, reach out and ask for an introduction. You may be surprised at the connections your friends have.
- Make a habit of introducing other people
Be courteous and help your peers develop their networks by introducing them to others who may be able to assist them in the future. This helps to build your business rapport, helps them achieve their goals and creates goodwill.
In addition to this, if people know you are likely to introduce them to others they will feel more comfortable introducing you to their peers and network.
Tip: Do you know someone who should be introduced to another person in your network? Make a point of introducing these two people next time you’re at an event.
- Think outside the box
Don’t pigeon hole a person to the label you place on their contact information. Don’t assume that because a person was introduced as being a part of specific industry, that they don’t have connections outside of it; being creative and unafraid to ask for help expands your network.
Tip: Add your new connection to your LinkedIn profile within 24 hours if possible, while the introduction is fresh. Adding a diverse number of clients, peers and other industry professionals allows you to view their networks more effectively. And if you don’t have LinkedIn, ask around, reach out to your network, establish your needs and develop an understanding of who they are connected to.