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“Relationships are everything.” That’s a common statement you’ll hear among successful entrepreneurs whenever they explain the secrets behind their success.

But how does one person find enough time to mingle and meet with so many people, while simultaneously building a profitable business? One word: Leverage.

Here are five networking strategies that can allow you to build a strong network, while maintaining your busy schedule:

1. Only network with like-minded people.

Networking on a tight schedule requires you to be extremely selective about the type of people you choose to spend your time with. That’s why it’s important to gravitate toward like-minded professionals who share your same goals and work ethic.

Not only can this allow you to build a network that’s easy to get along with, you’ll also build a reputation within your network as the type of connector that gives referrals and introductions of the highest caliber.

Like attracts like, so begin with your current network — ask for recommendations of individuals to connect with. Alumni groups are also valuable resources as many provide ongoing networking opportunities. Get familiar with local or online networking groups and events to help connect you to the right people.

There’s not enough time in the day to please everyone, or to get coffee with everyone. So decide before hand what type of people you want to associate yourself with, and then begin cultivating those relationships.

2. Schedule it.

Building a network doesn’t happen by accident. That’s why it’s important to schedule networking time into your weekly schedule.

Even if you don’t have a mixer or business meal scheduled, set an appointment to “network” within your weekly calendar. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that networking can only happen at events.

Here are a few ideas to use during your scheduled networking time, which can easily be done from any location.

Brag about your network: Use your social-media platforms to brag about your network’s online content or expertise. Just be sure to include their @name in the post so they’ll receive notification of it.
Make a phone call: Even if no one picks up, leave an encouraging message letting the person know that you’re thinking about him or her.
Send a personal card: Yes, this is an “old school” approach, but getting a personal note from someone says a lot more than receiving an email.
Join a LinkedIn group and answer questions: LinkedIn groups are one of the best places to connect with like-minded people in any industry. And by answering questions posted within the group you’ll begin developing an “expert” reputation. Some of my strongest contacts/friendships began by practicing this one strategy.

3. Never eat alone.

Never Eat Alone (Crown Business, 2005) not only is it a great book which I highly recommend for everyone to read, but it’s also a great rule to live by.

And since every human being needs to eat, this creates a great excuse for your contact to break away from his or her office to join you for a meal.

Remember to have at least one goal in mind for your meeting. Otherwise you’ll find yourself having lots of dinners and lunches that do nothing to move your business forward.

One note on paying etiquette: If you requested the meeting to dine out or are the one receiving coaching or advice, you should always offer to pick up the bill.

4. Host a Google Hangout.

The world’s greatest networkers have a reputation for connecting the members of their network with each other — when it’s appropriate of course.

This can take the form of an email introduction or passing along a phone number. But why not add a personal touch by hosting a Google Hangout instead?

Not only does this give everyone flexibility since they don’t have to meet in one location, it also allows you nurture the introduction so it gets off on the right foot. Also worth mentioning: Google Hangouts are free to use.

5. Give positive feedback and ideas.

One of the guests on my podcast School Of Greatness [], James Altucher, began building a powerful network (and getting clients) by freely giving ideas to companies and public figures.

And his formula was quite simple. He would first identify a person or organization, do a little research about who they are and what they do, and then submit a few ideas which he felt could be of use to reach their goals.

Researching and pitching ideas doesn’t have to be time consuming if you know your strengths and areas of expertise. You’ll find it easier to communicate your value if you know what you can to offer.

It’s a perfect example of the power of value creation.

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