Teamwork concept, brainstorming. Businessman crew working with new startup project in modern loft. Woman holding smartphone hands. Horizontal, film effectMeeting and networking with new people can be a great benefit to business professionals at nearly any stage in a career and in any industry. But it’s also vital when you’re in the C-suite, too. Did you know that a strong business network among C-level business leaders has been linked to a host of benefits, such as better company performance, higher firm value, greater innovation and even more favorable financing terms?

Are you effectively growing and leveraging your business network? Here are five great ways to use networking as a business development tool:

Join a well-respected CEO network. Meeting regularly with other C-level people can help you problem-solve and gain invaluable perspective.

Take your online contacts to a new level. Sure you have amazing LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook connections, but the truth is, unless you deepen those connections, you’re missing out on opportunities. If there’s someone you’d like in your network, reach out and try to meet with your connection offline, face-to-face for a coffee or lunch. Are you able to turn online contacts into in-person connections?

Volunteer. Find a cause you’re passionate about, or one that aligns with your career in some way, and sign up to volunteer. Joining a nonprofit board can be a great way to meet people informally and to make meaningful connections with other business leaders.

Do your homework. It can be difficult to talk to people you don’t know. But it is much easier to talk to someone when you know you have something in common. Before you meet, email or tweet, do your research and see if there is some common thread you can use to start the conversation. Did you go to the same college? Do you share the same hometown?

Attend events out of your circle. The only way to meet new people is to do new things. Expand your horizon by researching local happenings or events in the city that might add to your connections. Sign up to assist with a communitywide effort. You’ll be glad you did.

Remember, quality over quantity. It doesn’t matter if you have a million connections — it only matters if they count. Be specific about who you connect with, and be picky when you reach out. Narrow it down to your dream team of connections, then work from there.

Just about everyone, in every industry, can benefit from networking. What are you waiting for? Who knows, maybe the adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” might just apply to you.

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