Along with a connector’s mindset comes a conviction that helping others leads to personal happiness and professional success. Yet finding meaningful ways to be of service to other people is not as simple as it sounds. Helping others takes time, effort and commitment.

Don’t let this dissuade you. By following a few simple tips, you’ll be in a better position to offer people the help they need, when they need it. Along the way you’ll cultivate strong connections and build a solid network of support.

Follow through.

Offer your assistance only if you are prepared to follow up. I’ve heard several relationship building “experts” suggest asking people “How can I help you right now?” as a way to stand out at networking events. When I ran into a professional acquaintance who asked me this question, I responded by telling him what I needed for my latest project. His response was: “Sorry, I don’t have time in my schedule right now.” Before offering to help someone, ask yourself whether you are in a position to deliver…or risk damaging your credibility.

Ask targeted questions.

Be specific when asking people what they need. Instead of “How can I help you?” ask “Who is your ideal client?” or “What is your greatest business challenge?” What’s important to your business’s bottom line may not be as important to someone else’s. You may not be able to offer an immediate solution, but it’s only by understanding what your connections really need that you’ll be able to identify appropriate opportunities that come along.

Talk less, listen more.

Most of us want to be understood better. One of the most valuable gifts you can give someone is your undivided attention. Unlike hearing, which doesn’t require extra effort, listening involves paying close attention to what someone says and how they say it. The problem is that too many people have forgotten how to listen. They cut each other off, hijack each other’s sentences, or think about the next clever thing to say. You can’t be of service to others if you don’t listen to their words and pay attention to their body language. Talk less and listen more to gain the knowledge you need to make a difference.

Some people may not be looking for anything. Others may not know what they are looking for. But knowing that there is someone who is genuinely interested in helping them succeed is what forms the basis of a solid, long lasting relationship. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

How can you find genuine and meaningful ways to be of service and to help others succeed?