Business relationships are a huge part of any entrepreneur’s success. After a networking event, when you walk away with a handful of business cards and few potential prospects in mind, what’s the next step? Before you can build a strong relationship, you need to plant the seed by following up and nurturing that relationship. If you need some help getting from the business card exchange to meeting for coffee or lunch, we’ve got you covered.

Try out these five strategies for building relationships in business:

1. Don’t forget the follow up

Post-networking event, it’s important to follow up. A lot of people forget this crucial relationship-building step. By taking action and putting your name in the front of someone’s mind, you’re planting the seed for a future business relationship. Your follow up doesn’t have to be long. It could be something as simple as a hello and a reminder of where you met and how good it was to meet them. Bonus points if you include small details of the conversation you had, and maybe you could throw in an invitation to coffee to continue the conversation.

2. Bring people together

A big part of building your network is building a community. When you refer people to other people and offer a solution when it doesn’t immediately benefit you, you’ll begin to see more coming your way. People will want to refer you to others and help you out now because you helped them. You’ll see more prospects coming your way, and you’ll have a group of people who have your back because you have theirs.

3. Identify key relationships

Let’s face it, out of a stack of business cards you get from a networking event, maybe only one or two will result in a valuable relationship. Rather than spending time trying to nurture a relationship that’s not going to work out, you should practice identifying key relationships. To do this, you should outline your goals, what you’re trying to accomplish and focus on the people who can help you reach your goals.

4. Listen and learn

Good listening skills build trust. It sounds obvious but when prospects are talking to you, it’s important to actually listen, engage, and remember what they say. You’d be surprised by how many people at networking events are always looking for someone better to talk to, so they don’t really listen to what you say. All relationships require listening; it’s how we connect with people and move into the next level of relationship building.

5. Consistently stay in touch

After your follow up and coffee meeting, don’t just disappear until you need something from that person again. Keep yourself in their mind by engaging with their social media, checking in every now and then by email, and suggesting another meeting. Don’t feel creepy. Reach out when you think the time is right. Find a happy medium between overbearing and sparse communication.

Networking and business relationship building can be stressful. Our advice? Take a breath, relax, and talk to people the way you would a friend or coworker. It doesn’t have to be strictly business talk the whole time. Meet people, connect, and have fun!

For more resources on sales, check out our networking education page.

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