Business networking is critical to your success. The more people you know, the more opportunities you have. You have incredible access if you are networked with a good mechanic, investor, realtor, financial planner, florist, doctor, engineer, teacher—the list goes on!

Here are some networking habits to help increase and strengthen your personal network.

1. Go strike up a conversation. You can just sit there among a group and wait for people to come to you, but that is not effective networking. You have to take responsibility to strike up a conversation. If you feel intimidated or fear rejection, approach the person as if they want to meet you and they are waiting for you to take the first step. Remember to keep it positive and focus on the other person instead of yourself. This habit applies to all group functions whether it is a dinner social event, party or standing in line at the grocery store.

2. Fulfill the commitments you make. Or, don’t make a commitment you won’t keep. If you promise someone something, do it. A great way to weaken you network is to say you are going to do something and not do it. If you promise to call to get a lunch set up, do it. If you promise to forward certain information, do it. You want to be networked with dependable and reliable people, right?

3. Close the conversation on a positive note. “It was good to see you. Thank you for your time. I look forward to seeing you again. It was nice talking with you.” All of these and other positive phrases are great ways to end a conversation. It is especially important to utter positive statements at the close of a conversation if opposing perspectives are shared. Let the person know that you appreciate them.

4. Keep the appointments you set. How is this an effective networking habit? When you cancel an appointment it can communicate that you think your time is more important than the person’s time you canceled on. You networked your way to an appointment, and you are canceling? Reserving a time and not showing is even worse. Avoid inconveniencing your friends, family, and business associates by calling off what was already set in your schedule.

5. Diversify your network Accept others for who they are, not for who you want them to be. This is far easier said than done. You might not want to sport purple hair, but other people might. You might enjoy reading books while other people prefer to watch television. One of your co-workers talks real slow and you speak fast. A key to increasing your acceptance is to remind yourself of how boring life would be if we were all alike! A diverse network allows you to expand your thinking and your opportunities.

“More business decisions occur over lunch and dinner than any other time, yet no MBA courses are given on the subject.”

– Peter Druker

6. Stay in touch. Grab a business card or at least make sure you get their first and last name so you can record or data base who they are. You can send them “nice to meet you” cards or holiday cards, emails, phone calls or personal meetings. You can make it a point to speak with them at networking functions or eat lunch or get coffee together. Networks that don’t stay warm usually die off. There are thousands of ways to stay in touch.

Expand and strengthen your network. Practices a few of these applicable tools, tips or habits to enjoy the many benefits a strong network produces.

Best of success to you!