Building your business network takes time, effort and focus. Just like any other relationship it takes time to build trust. You can't expect to start networking on Monday and have people giving you business on Tuesday. There's a process and it's not going to happen overnight. For some people, building rapport comes easy and the process goes a lot faster and for some people it goes a little slower. However long it takes though, the end goal is for there to be a mutual feeling that no matter whom you refer, they will be well taken care of. I sometimes refer to it as "The Mom Test". If I don't feel comfortable referring you to my Mom then I'm probably not going to refer you to anyone else. So how do you get to that point?
Well, join a group for starters. It's a great opportunity to meet a number of motivated professionals who are all there for the same reason... to build new relationships! Not only does it offer some structure but it also offers consistency. It's a chance for you to see those same people on a regular basis. You get to know them and they get to know you. It's a lot of fun and those people can become great friends and great resources.
The other thing you can do is go to a social event. Now there are a million "networking events" out there and if a person wanted to you could go to something twice a day, every day, all year long! But what's the point of that? How effective can you be if you just grab a card and go? That person doesn't know anything about you. There's no relationship there. When we do a happy hour the goal is to give people an opportunity to either start or strengthen a relationship. That hour or two you spend there is just a very small part of the overall process to building that relationship. Once you make that initial contact, you need to follow up. Schedule a time to meet for coffee and get to know more about the person. If you can get to know someone on a personal level and you know what makes them tick, why they do what they do and what their goals are, then you will be more interested in helping them out and vice versa. I think the company and the products are very important too, but they definitely take a backseat to the person. If you believe in someone and what they are trying to accomplish then you will FIND ways to help them out.
Lastly, you get out what you put in. Like Zig Ziglar said, "If you help enough people get what they want, you will eventually get what you want." Try to look for ways you can connect people and help their business grow. If you show people that you are interested in helping other people and not just yourself they are much more likely to want to reciprocate.
So just keep in mind these tips when you are out building your network. If you take a genuine interest in people and what makes them do what they do and then you look for ways to help them out, they will in turn want to help you out. Eventually, you will have a vast network of trusted friends and colleagues that you can count on. It's not difficult, it just takes time.