We all know that to grow your practice, you must be effective at building your network. The question is: What does a great networker have that puts him head and shoulders above those who are not so good? It comes down to an ability to do the following:

1. Focus on relationships. The great networker knows that building their practice is more about building relationships than simply asking for referrals and collecting business cards. In order to build those relationships, the great networker focuses on whom the people in his network are and the needs or challenges they face, not just what they can do for him. The good networker is empathetic and truly cares about those in his network. This caring and empathy allows him to focus on providing valuable assistance and insight. It's this ability to provide for others in his network that sets him apart and makes it easy to meet and get to know others.

2. Do the "homework." In order to be a great networker, you need to really understand who is in your network, how they are related to one another and what are the obstacles to success they face. Great networkers are experts at identifying things they don't know about those in their network and then filling in the gaps. Oftentimes, we think of our network as those with whom we interact on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. But what about those with whom we don't interact as frequently, or at all? What about those individuals who are connected to those we interact with? Aren't they individuals we would like to have in our network? Having the ability to see the details of how all the individual pieces fit together, as well as the bigger picture, is a common trait of great networkers.

3. Be strategic and systematic. Networking is not a passive activity. All great networkers find time in their schedule for networking activities. Whether it's daily, weekly or monthly, they set aside time to network and keep that time sacred. In addition, great networkers keep up-to-date notes on those they interact with, and, most important, they follow up after each and every interaction. Many not-so-good networkers fail at this final critical step.

4. Deliver value. Networking is a two-way relationship, not a one-way transaction. The great networker knows it's not enough to just stay in touch with her network. She knows that she must deliver quality referrals, advice and introductions. The great networker unselfishly focuses on the needs of those in her network - rather than solely focusing on how he can benefit from the relationship.

Building and managing a robust network becomes so much easier for the great networker because she has all of the abilities listed above. Does that mean you can't become a great networker if you don't? No, of course not. You just might have to work a little harder at it.

Does it help to be more extroverted than introverted? Maybe. Some individuals are born with the inherent ability to be great networkers. Others have to work hard to become great. Either way, it's not too late to get started and improve your networking abilities.

All it takes is the desire.

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