The Definitive Guide to Networking for Entrepreneurs Level 5 Mentors>>Networking and Building Alliances>>The Definitive Guide to Networking for Entrepreneurs This is a comprehensive guide designed to help you learn how to network like a pro. Why Networking Is Important for Every Entrepreneur When it comes to building a business in the fitness industry, networking can be what makes the difference between success and failure. There are two major reasons why networking is so important for every entrepreneur: It’s about finding new resources and relationships that can help you grow your business. For example, your network should give you access to skills that you don’t personally possess but that will benefit your business. It’s a crucial part of keeping up with changes in your industry. You’ll discover what is moving and shaking the world of fitness far faster when you have a deep and well-connected network. Benefits of networking for entrepreneurs When you network successfully, you will make new connections with complementary skillsets and knowledge. You’ll learn more about your business, and doors to new opportunities will begin to open for you. These opportunities may include partnerships, collaborations, and joint ventures. Opportunities that you only hear about because you are visible and getting noticed. Your connections are also likely to share valuable information that could lead to increased sales and market share growth. You will find reliable leads for new products or services through your network – and the honest opinions you receive are the most valuable feedback you’ll ever be offered. It’s the sharing nature of a connected network that delivers the greatest benefits. The knowledge, experience, expertise, and skills within your network will enhance your business potential at a far faster rate than if you remain a ‘lone ranger’. And then there are the onward connections – the potential for your connections to introduce you to others and advocate for your company and brand. (Hey, we all know that word of mouth is the best marketing in the world). In short, if you are not networking, you’ll have to put a ton more effort into growing your business – and you’ll still fall short of your true potential. How to get started with networking Okay, you’re sold on why building connections with people is crucial to your business. The trouble is that networking isn’t always easy for an entrepreneur. You’re probably juggling a million things already within your business. Then there are all the personal things you must attend to. When are you going to find the time for building relationships? Developing a strong network is a lot like any other part of your business: it takes work, time, and effort. There is a misconception that networking is just about meeting new people and making connections. This is not true. Networking also involves building trust and maintaining long-term relationships with like-minded people. It’s not a one-time event, but a continual process. So, how do you get started? Stay focused on your goals and what you want to accomplish by networking The first step to networking is being focused on your goal. This means that you should know what you want to accomplish through your networking efforts. For many people, building professional relationships can help deliver personal growth, job opportunities, and career advancement. For you as an entrepreneur in the fitness industry, your networking goals are likely to be much broader and deeper. Consider them fully, and write them down. Remember that networking is all about what you offer to others Networking is not about meeting people that you know but rather finding the right kind of people. However, while you should remain mindful of your networking goals – and this will help you decide who to connect with – you should never be a ‘user’. Instead, reach out by offering useful information, help, and advice. As your business networking develops, so too will trust from your connections. It is this trust that will encourage your growing network to reciprocate your behavior toward them. Use your social skills on social media to develop your network Social media is a great starting point to build your network and stay connected. When you use social media effectively, you will increase your authority as a subject matter expert and improve your influence. (LinkedIn is especially effective for uncovering networking opportunities.) Social media is all about engagement. Comment on others’ posts. Say ‘thanks’ for compliments. Share useful information, and create your own content to post online. Start small and develop your network over time Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your network be. To build your reputation and make high-value connections takes time. Business networking is a long game. Commit 30 minutes each day to your networking efforts. Create a strategic approach. For example, you might decide to: Spend 10 minutes reaching out to potential connections Share one post each day Spend 10 minutes commenting on other people’s posts Spend 10 minutes on staying connected to your current connections You may also decide to create one post of your own each week. Every little bit helps, and, over time, every little bit you do adds up to a whole lot of networking. Keep your network relationships healthy by staying in touch You should also create a system that prompts you to send birthday and anniversary greetings. In addition, make sure that you know what the main interests and focus of your connections are. Be prepared to get personal. Learn people’s likes and dislikes, and engage with them – it shows you care about them as a person and not simply as a professional connection. If a connection is a fan of a rival football team, wish them luck in the Super Bowl – but not too much luck. You want your team to win, after all! Networking questions for entrepreneurs While networking can be daunting, it can also be fun to learn about other people, as well as highly informative and educational. Remember, networking is about gaining trust, showing empathy for others, and then building your reputation and long-term relationships. Inevitably, you’ll be asking a lot of questions when you first connect with others. Here are a few good questions to get conversations flowing – and you’ll be surprised at just how well these work as opening gambits: What is your story? What inspired you? How long have you been in the industry/field of work? What do you like about your job/business? What are your biggest challenges? What does success mean to you? Networking must be part of your business strategy Your network should be one of the most valuable assets that you have as an entrepreneur. It allows you to connect with people who can help you grow your business or find new opportunities that will benefit your company. It also helps you to identify and locate people who have different skillsets and experience, and who will add extra value to what you do – as well as expand your circle of brand advocates. No matter how you approach networking, it’s imperative that you do so. However, it can be intimidating and difficult to do. It is important to develop a strategy that allows you to follow up with the people you meet and take action on your next steps. The first step when it comes to networking is to identify who your audience will be and what type of personality they have. Then you must commit to networking as part of your routine. Start to develop your network today. 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