How good you are at high-building quality relationships has a measurable impact on your ultimate success. With the right tools, strategies and tactics, you can change the way you develop relationships and forge a network of colleagues and contacts.
1. Make the right connections--even if you're not a "people person." Anyone can become an effective connector. Connecting is actually less about being gregarious and more about your awareness of the relationships you are forming.
There's no need to become best friends with every person you meet. Instead, think about the people with whom it's important for you to become well acquainted in order to create loyal clients, further your career and build a successful business. Consider categories like clients and vendors or specific individuals within categories. Then, jot down some ideas for reaching out to each of these people.
2. Improve your social I.Q. Now think about how you currently interact with these people, and be honest with yourself. Are you exclusive, controlling and distant? Or are you inclusive, empathetic and warm? How often do you reach out? Do you take into account what others think? How do you make them feel? At the end of each day, spend a few minutes completing the following process:
- Review the day and your interactions with staff and clients.
- Rate the day's positive impact on others (grade yourself A-F).
- Write down the notable successes and failures from the day.
The people with whom you interact will unconsciously and instinctively mirror your emotions. That's why it's so important to improve your social I.Q. Once you've pinpointed the areas you need to improve, rehearse mentally. Anticipate how people might react to what you say. Rehearse conversations in advance. Develop a vision for yourself and how you'd like to change. Then, commit to doing it.
3. Remember, it's not about you. It's a dog-eat-dog world, and the urge to look out for No. 1 can sometimes be overwhelming. But you probably won't experience across-the-board success until you put others first. Instead of asking, "What's in it for me?" you need to learn to ask, "What's in it for them?" Putting others first is hard work. It means pleasantly greeting each of your employees, even if you're having a bad day. It means advising your client to make a prudent financial choice, even if you won't net as much profit.
Don't just network. Work your network. Like a full but dusty Rolodex, a large online "network" doesn't do you much good simply by existing. In order to truly leverage the business connections you make, you've got to put in some effort. I recommend using three types of contact strategies for keeping in touch:
- Have a system for following up after a meeting, call or contact with an individual or a business. This could be a handwritten note, an e-mail, a phone call or even a social media contact.
- Periodic individual contact: Reach out to existing contacts on a systematic, periodic basis to stay in touch and maintain the relationship.
- Communication campaigns: Target a subgroup within your network, e.g., clients, prospects, etc., whenever you have something you particularly want them to know.
- Many people have the best of intentions when making a new business acquaintance, but they just haven't acquired the proper strategies for truly keeping in touch. The prospect of staying connected to all 1,000-some folks in your LinkedIn network seems daunting. But if you break it down to reaching out to 20 people a week, the task is much more manageable.