The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What’s the best way to make fruitful connections?” is written by William Vanderbloemen, founder and CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group.
It’s common knowledge that networking is a necessary skill in business. But there is a lot of mystique and ambiguity in how to go from a handshake to a cultivated, valuable, professional connection.
The key is this: People need to feel like they are genuinely important and valued by you before they will view you as important and valuable to them.
The difference between the guy they shook hands with at the event and later forgot about and the girl they shook hands with at that same event who later became a great business connection is one thing: genuine care and support.
I’ve found there are three easy, genuine ways to cultivate fruitful connections to help you and your business:
Social media has drastically changed the landscape of how we communicate. You’ve heard this for years now in articles, blog posts, and podcasts—and it’s because it’s the truth. LinkedIn (LNKD) is the new Rolodex. If you want to keep in touch with people, add them on LinkedIn or Facebook (FB) and interact with them regularly through commenting on posts or sending them helpful business articles. It’s a great way to maintain a constant presence in a connection’s life and offer consistent support, feedback, and collaboration. It doesn’t cost you a dime and allows you to add value just by sharing helpful content.
Reach out when you’re already out
When I travel, I keep a mental note of friends and connections who live in the cities I’ll be in, and will send them a quick text that says something like, “Just landed in your city which made me think of you. Hope all is well!” The best part about the text is that it doesn’t ask my connections to reciprocate or give away any time. If they get back to me, or if it’s a special situation, I might offer to drop by their office and bring coffee or dessert. It seems simple, and requires minimal effort, but it goes a long way to let people know you’re thinking of them.
Always be networking
Many of the best networkers I know are not natural extroverts. They have to work at connecting with people, and it often drains them of energy. But what makes them the best is that they keep networking at the top of their minds all the time. This is easier for some than others, but it’s important for everyone.
When someone shares a challenge he’s facing, connect him with someone you know who can help. People love to be connected to those who can add value to their lives and businesses, and you serving as that connection point will be both helpful and noticed. A tip for those who don’t feel that they are natural networkers: The best thing you can do is treat those you network with in the same manner you would treat a good friend.
Australian billionaire businessman Lindsay Fox of Linfox once said, “Personal relationships are always the key to good business. You can buy networking; you can’t buy friendships.” Treating people with sincere kindness, respect, and hospitality is what good networking is all about. If you do that, and listen more than you talk, you have nothing to worry about.
Getting a connection to shift from acquaintance to valuable business ally doesn’t have to be tricky. If you let these three keys guide you, you’ll be able to establish a healthy, positive, and collaborative network around you.