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How to build a professional network from scratch

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Starting out in business can be one of the most trying times anyone can experience and even more so if you lack a supportive network of business owners to help you reach your business goals.

So what are you meant to do if your little black book has one phone number in it and it happens to be your mum’s? Take heed, there are several clear cut strategies you can implement to build your business network from scratch and ensure that it serves you well into the future.

Get out from behind your desk

Scroll the internet and look for as many networking groups and events as you can possibly find. Then go about setting yourself a target of attending a minimum of one per week for at least three months to build up a base set of contacts. You are not looking to sell to these contacts, even though it will naturally happen. You are looking to find individuals who will be able to refer you clients and answer your business questions when you need it the most.

Know what you do

We’ll derrr! This one surprises me every single time. I’ll go to a networking event and there will always be a business owner who tries to impress you by initiating long, convoluted sentences that simply confuse and stun other business owners into thinking they must be important! What a load of hog wash. Keep it simple and clear. After all, if others can’t understand what you do, how the hell are they going to be able to refer you clients?

Have your 30-second elevator pitch down to a fine art. You can pull one together in a matter of moments by concisely answering the following questions in order.

1. What do you do?
2. Who benefits?
3. How do they benefit?

Get over your fear

I remember the very first time I ever went to a networking event, it was like being back in high school again, not knowing anyone and being afraid of what they may think (thank god I’m over that now!). I believe everyone in business has had this feeling at some stage, even if they don’t care to admit it.

So what do you do if the thought of walking into a room full of strangers has given you sweaty palms? Simple! Pretend that everyone in the room is a long-lost friend (one that you would actually like to see again). You will discover that your shoulders relax automatically, you become more confident and you greet them with a large smile and open persona. This simple technique makes the world of difference in bringing about your real personality and confidence in what may otherwise be an awkward social moment.

Meet, greet and meet again

It takes time to build up a little black book of business contacts that will open up new opportunities, but persistence is the key. Take the time out to meet individually with each of your new contacts to find out more about what they do and how you can assist one another in growing your businesses. Remain in their thoughts by dropping them an email from time to time to see how they are doing.

By remaining consistent, you will gradually build up a loyal network of business owners that you can rely on for anything, just as they will rely on you.

Ben Angel is a public speaker, trainer, media commentator and personal stylist. His new book, “Sleeping Your Way to the Top in Business,” will be released in August 2009. Check out www.benangel.com.au and follow Ben’s styling tips at @benangel.

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