Building your business network can be easy: The important thing is to be genuinely interested in others and to have the goal of helping others with your offer.
You are never successful alone
Other people will help you to go your way and achieve your goals. Therefore, they are an important foundation of your success.
But never start by asking what others can do for you, ask the question:
What can you do for others?
With your knowledge, skills and also your contacts you are very valuable for other people.
Be attentive and interested in taking advantage of these opportunities. Completely unselfishly and without thinking about what you will get back in return.
Your network is not a bank account that you can deposit and withdraw money to and from at will.
Give wherever you can, and be happy when you can help others.
Maybe you will get something back some time later, maybe not. Or you get something back from a direction you never would have expected.
Keep your network active
A network is only valuable if you keep it active at all times. It won’t work if you contact an acquaintance after years of radio silence and now expect immediate help.
On the contrary, check in regularly with the people in your network and keep in touch.
Only when you are regularly visible and genuinely interested in people, your network lives. And then opportunities arise unexpectedly.
When people know who you are, what you stand for, and what is important to you in life, you give them a chance to reach out to you when the opportunity is right. They will show you opportunities, make connections or offer you projects.
But if you remain as mute as a fish and wait for others to approach you, they will slowly forget you. Completely without evil thoughts, simply because you have disappeared from their field of vision.
A good foundation for successfully building your own network is to take a serious interest in other people.
If you approach people with an open mind, you will have wonderful encounters.
Sometimes it will happen to you that you find someone unsympathetic at first sight. Give yourself a "second chance"! Ask yourself: "What about him or her do I like??"
Customers vs. Colleagues
You want to have both potential customers and colleagues in your network. Approach people with an open mind, often it is not possible to see in advance how valuable each person can be to you.
It is not only the person’s profession or position that is important, but above all common values.
Membership and active participation in your professional association is a very meaningful thing to do. You get to know colleagues and competitors, you can exchange ideas and help each other out. And the professional association forms a representation of interests on the market, for example for discussion with decision makers from politics.
IHK / HWK
Every Chamber of Industry and Commerce and every Chamber of Trade offers a whole range of lectures, working groups and networking events. Participation is often free of charge and you meet valuable people there.
Professional business networks like BNI and PEN offer you a framework for building your network and exchanging referrals.
Participation is subject to a fee and there are strict rules. Usually the meetings are weekly very early in the morning and there is an attendance requirement.
Per trade (tax consultant, advertising agency, photographer, coach, …) only one participant is allowed at a time to avoid competition. The basic idea is that the participants recommend each other.
Many participants in these networks report remarkable successes.
XING local groups
There are many local business groups on the XING platform that meet regularly to exchange information, give presentations and network.
The appointments are either free of charge or very inexpensive, as usually only the costs for the location are apportioned.
Similar meetings on LinkedIn are very rare so far.
Working in a coworking space is very pleasant and you automatically get in touch with many very inspiring people. Visit different spaces in your city for a trial appointment and decide afterwards.
A group of people meet at an interesting location (usually in a climatically attractive country), rent a house together and work on their projects.
An important element (besides the mutual motivation to make things happen) is the exchange of experiences.
You get inspirations and offers of help, which you can only get with difficulty by other means.
Many participants of a Workation report afterwards that they have not fully implemented their workload, but have made valuable contacts
Seat neighbors when traveling
If you travel by train or fly by plane, you usually have a seatmate.
Often you are lucky to meet an exciting person there with whom you can have a good conversation.
I remember a very lively conversation during a train ride between Munich and Rosenheim with the editor of the largest Indian daily newspaper.
Congresses, seminars, events
The presentations at events are not necessarily the most important reason to go there. Almost more important: Who else is there? Who can you talk to during the break?
Here you get the opportunity to meet people you would otherwise never meet together in one place.
Every day you meet people in everyday situations. If you smile at them, it may turn into a little small talk, which then turns into an inspiring conversation.
Every person is interesting. If you walk through the world with your eyes open, you’ll notice the many small opportunities.
Networking in practice
First listen carefully
At the beginning of a good relationship is the honest interest in the other person, and this applies in the private as well as in the business area. We look forward to meeting new people and learning more about them. This is the only way to build a sustainable network.
Good networkers are good listeners and put their own messages on the back burner first.
It may well be that you yourself spend 90% of the conversation just listening and only get to talk about yourself at the end.
How do you introduce yourself?
Think about two to three concise statements about yourself as a creative, your claim to your work and the reasons why you should be remembered by your interlocutor.
My name is Otto Meier and I like to take pictures. Actually everything that comes in front of my lens. Last month I bought the camera Klikon 0815 and I am very satisfied with it.
My name is Hans Muller and I am a sports photographer. For the last 5 years I have been a regular at second division soccer and handball matches and sell my pictures to the local press.
It is even better if you describe your own performance from the customer’s point of view:
My name is Franz Schmidt, reportage photographer, and I deliver emotional photo reports to aid organizations. In this way, these organizations attract the attention of the population and the willingness to make donations.
Showing honest enthusiasm
The way you introduce yourself shows your counterpart your enthusiasm for your job.
The goal is not to list as many sales arguments for your performance as possible, but to make it clear that you put your heart and soul into your work and are fully committed to your customers.
Honest emotions are much more convincing than memorized facts and arguments.
Pick up reactions
After the first two or three sentences, pause for a moment to give the other person a chance to respond. Ideally, you have aroused his interest and he enters into a short dialogue. This will give you the opportunity to specifically address their questions and align your further statements with them
Very quickly your interviewer has to go to his next appointment). Instead of just saying goodbye, you arrange a follow-up activity:
May I come by your office next week and present my portfolio to you?
Here is my business card, please give me a call if I can support you with your project.
Build a business network: Stay in touch
Often the interlocutor will put the given business card in his pocket without a direct follow-up activity resulting from it. The project addressed is delayed, the folder appointment is forgotten.
If you then call in a friendly and noncommittal way to stay in contact, you show his interest in a cooperation. And this has a very positive effect in most cases, even if it does not directly result in an order. Your network grows.
The opportunity for a short presentation usually comes unprepared. And even people who are actually well versed in self-marketing often miss such an opportunity because they don’t get their point across.
So it is helpful to practice your own self-presentation regularly, so that it is convincing in "serious cases".