Group of business professionals networking

Three Ways to Build Real Relationships in Business

We’ve all heard the phrase, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” There’s definitely some truth behind it. Being a successful entrepreneur requires a broad mix of skills: you’ve got to have some talent, a competitive drive, a team of dedicated employees aligned behind your vision, and a network of people to support and do business with you.

So, it’s not all about who you know, but having a strong network is certainly a big part of what has led to my success in the middle market. Ask 10 entrepreneurial CEOs about the importance of their network, and 9 of them will tell you it’s been a key part of their story (and one will be the smartest person in the room!). But today’s “networking” isn’t about filling the Rolodex with people you sell your products and services to. It’s about building authentic, lasting relationships: people who will serve as your sounding board, support group, and yes – potential business partners and customers.

Here are three key tips to start building a network of authentic relationships in the middle market:

Your built-in network.

Your friends, family, and coworkers are a ready-made network of people who want to help you… they just don’t know how. If you’re just starting out, they can be key to unlocking future opportunities. Be open and honest with them about your goals and that you’re looking for help. This often leads to an introduction or an opportunity that you wouldn’t have stumbled into yourself!

It’s about your intentions.

To build a network of authentic relationships, the first words out of your mouth can’t be a sales pitch. People are increasingly turned off by pushy sales techniques! They want genuine connection, and you’re not going to give that to them by turning the conversation to sales at the first possible moment. Approach burgeoning relationships as opportunities for you to learn and grow as an individual.

Ask questions.

One of the best ways to make and nurture an initial connection is to simply ask questions. The power of the question allows a person to demonstrate their own expertise and shows your interest in being a sounding board and a future business partner. HBR agrees that embracing curiosity is a key to building a strong relationship: “Start with showing your interest in understanding others’ work by asking specific questions and even asking for advice that would be easy for them to give… By asking for help, you will receive valuable assistance and strengthen your connection along the way.”

It’s time to reframe how you think about networking! By thinking of it as an opportunity for personal growth and building real relationships, you’ll remove a lot of pressure from the situation. If you can’t make that initial connection or you’re having trouble building on it, you’re not “missing out” on a sale. You learn from the experience and move on. Build your network by creating authentic connections!

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