Throughout the pandemic, it has been difficult for many professionals to build and maintain new business relationships. Interactions may have been limited to Zoom calls or virtual happy hours, while valuable in-person networking events were placed on the back burner.
Now that many restrictions have eased and employees are heading back to the office or have settled in to their new work-from-home routines, many people are ready and eager for more intentional networking efforts. Below, 10 members of Young Entrepreneur Council explain how professionals can make their networking efforts more effective for the rest of 2022 and beyond.
1. Connect With Others Quarterly
Since you will likely not be at networking events or conferences as much, it is important to lay out a calendar and be intentional about committing time quarterly to connect with other experts within your sphere. In order to do this, I have been able to find some key people within my industry—subject matter experts on interesting conference topics that I was not able to attend—and reach out to them directly. This did require some legwork on the front end, such as researching them, subscribing to their newsletters, understanding their companies, etc. I was able to then reach out in a way that directly ties them to a topic they are an expert on and I am interested in. This shows that you are serious about their time. I try for one new connection a month. - Liam Leonard, DML Capital
2. Take A Big Picture View
Many people are looking to make an immediate sale or acquire a client right away, which is great when it happens. However, networking should actually be seen as a very long-term strategy. When you share information with people you meet, whether in person or online, you never know where it might lead. They may not need your services now, but they might at a later point. They may also refer you to someone else who's a better match for what you have to offer. For example, if you connect with someone on social media, they may have no interest in signing up for anything. However, if you interact with them, they may share your posts and help you expand your network and find clients. The same principle holds true for any kind of engagement. - Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting
3. Schedule It In
Staying in contact with my network via phone or video calls over the last two years has been an effective way to build and maintain new and existing relationships. Scheduling a call every six months to connect with those I feel are important in my network has been a great way to maintain those relationships. - Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC
4. Remove The Pressure
It's important to not put too much pressure on new networking relationships. It’s easy to fall into the trap of expecting the relationship to always go somewhere, and to go somewhere fast. The key is to emphasize “building” the relationship. Building relationships takes time. Encourage, support and engage over time. Be authentic in every message—it always shines through. You’ll be surprised in the long run how many people come back around to you because you’re approachable and genuine and have also established yourself as a go-to resource in the process. - Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker
5. Use Authentic Language
Before the pandemic, it was easy to say "How are you?" and it would be expected to hear back, "Fine, thank you!" But these days, many people are not fine, and these greetings can seem hollow and mechanical. I've been trying to use more unique and authentic greetings, such as "How are you holding up?" or "I'm reaching out hoping that you're happy and healthy." I also try to reach out with more personalized messages. For example, I might say, "I enjoyed your post about…" or "I loved your thoughts on…" This requires a little more effort than just "How are you?” but acknowledging in a simple and brief way that times are challenging and connecting to people in a more specific way can build lasting and genuine support from wonderful people. - Shu Saito, SpiroPure
6. Leverage Social Media The Right Way
While abusing social media can lead to harmful effects in the end, keeping in touch with your personal and professional accounts across digital networks is a great way to both build and maintain new relationships. For professional growth, LinkedIn and Twitter have been instrumental for connecting with prospects, partners, applicants and vendors in the past two years. Instagram additionally facilitates dozens of weekly conversations through stories, common areas of interest and hobbies. Participating in the right conversations while maintaining your own brand is a great way to start, even with as little as 20 minutes a day. - Mario Peshev, DevriX
7. Increase Your LinkedIn Activity
If you're not using LinkedIn, you're likely missing out on opportunities to network with individuals who can benefit you this year, next year or 10 years from now. As a first step, make sure your LinkedIn profile is completely filled out. Also, avoid frequent blunders such as posting an improper photo, failing to share your location, skills or degree, and failing to personalize your feed. Make a big effort to get to know LinkedIn and to become a regular, rather than a visitor, on the network. Keep in mind that increasing your network by 20% with quality connections is likely to be more advantageous than expanding it by 40% with random connections. - Candice Georgiadis, Digital Day
8. Strengthen Established Relationships
One way professionals can be more intentional about their networking efforts for the rest of the year is to focus on building relationships with people they already know. Too often, professionals spend all their time trying to meet new people instead of deepening the relationships they have. By focusing on building strong relationships with the people you know, you’ll be in a better position to reach out to them for help when you need it. What's more, when your existing network has you in mind more often, they'll be more likely to help you in some way without needing a push. So, go over your network on LinkedIn or look at your email contacts. Reach out to the people you haven't spoken to in a while and start communicating again. - Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
9. Do Your Research
One way to be more intentional about your networking efforts for the rest of the year is to make a list of people whom you want to connect with. You can then research their backgrounds and what their interests are. This will help you come up with ideas for conversation starters. You can reach out to such people via email or by using LinkedIn. However, make sure that your approach is personalized and that you have a goal that's mutually beneficial. When you create a step-by-step plan for networking, you'll be really committed. And it'll be more likely that you'll get better results from your efforts. - Blair Williams, MemberPress
10. Remember The Value Of Small Gestures
When it comes to building relationships, small things matter. Human beings are social animals and crave connections. But building relationships takes time and dedication. In the current times, when most of us are working remotely, we don't often get to see our colleagues or teammates in person. But this doesn't mean that you'll keep the relationships strictly professional. It's okay to have some nonwork-related chats sometimes. If you're not comfortable doing that, make sure to remember when to say “thank you” or “sorry” whenever needed. Reach out to others to appreciate their achievements or celebrate milestones. Things like these help make your relationships stronger. - Josh Kohlbach, Wholesale Suite
Image Credit: Photo by Anete Lusina
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