We’ve all heard that building relationships and expanding our network is essential for success and key for a face-to-face marketing strategy. Regardless of your industry or demographic, you must cultivate relationships through your networking efforts. While this is solid advice, I feel there are some missing pieces on exactly how to cultivate relationships in the most effective but sincere manner.
Building a network is about having an intention so your time is utilized effectively. See, a lot of ambitious people will go to lots of networking events and conferences, collect and trade business cards in the thousands, but they’ll never lead to relationships. A great way to establish and grow these relationships is to set an intention and goal of who you want to meet or what you want to accomplish from the interaction.
After creating Webmetrix Group, I really wanted to only work with select clientele, but my ideal clients weren’t on social media. With no way to market to them, I knew I needed to network and find people who would give me a warm intro to my dream clients, which has led to landing them all.
There are seven common things that people do that kills opportunities during the time one spends networking:
1. Asking someone what they “do” before asking for their name
2. Asking what they do without asking questions about them first
3. Failing to allow the conversational partner to talk 80% of the time
4. Not truly listening
5. Asking “yes” or “no” questions versus open-ended questions
6. Focusing on how you can win versus making the relationship a win-win
7. Thinking that the first impression versus the last impression is the most important thing that people will remember
Once you have met several people from your networking efforts, how do you go from exchanging business cards to determining who to develop deep, long-term relationships with? There are three keys to this:
1. Time is the No. 1 thing that we can’t get back, so use it strategically.
Losing my parents taught me to treasure time and make every second count by helping others. This philosophy allows me to know that when I need a favor from someone, which is either an introduction or their time, I will get it. Building relationships are going to take time. I block one hour every day at the same time to make it part of my routine, as you have to create time for anything to be effective.
Take the time to ask people questions like: What are you most excited about, or what do you need help with personally or professionally? This opens the door to refer your network to one another.
2. Focus your energy on your relationships.
Much like a flower without proper nourishment, relationships that are not nourished will wither. Remember all the people you have ignored for years? Has the relationship faded?
I’ve found that the best way to build relationships is by creating a habit. For example, as relationship management coach Patrick Ewers mentions in an article, choose the 30 most important people, and make it a point to reach out to one of them per day that you would not have been in touch with otherwise. Provide them with something that is “valuable, meaningful and relevant” to them. This will lead to roughly 360 touches over a year that you would never have had otherwise.
The largest lever to build relationships is to build touch points in just five minutes per day from a place of giving, which will lead to amazing opportunities for you due to the law of reciprocity, one of Dr. Robert Cialdini’s six laws of influence.
3. Give without expectation.
Zig Ziglar once said, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”
When you give without expectation, you know that the relationship is more important than seeking something in return. Or you could say you are giving without expectation because you want to be liked, which is key to creating relationships. Do you think someone would do business with someone they didn’t like?
To be able to find ways to give in business without any expectations is to really start with your expertise. Find out what someone isn’t currently doing and help them fix it for free. The real key is that it shouldn’t take much time or cost you, yet has a huge impact on the recipient.
One of the best examples I can think of is a story that I heard when speaking to Greg Reid, the founder of entrepreneur event series Secret Knock (which I’ve attended), who met the President of Mexico a few years ago. Reid wanted to help the president with his wishes, and by asking strategic questions, he found out that the president was going to be building a library. So Greg sent a case of books to him every month. After several years of never asking for anything, Greg asked the president to attend his event, which he accepted.
Showing appreciation via personalized gifts is something else I’d recommend and something I personally do for every client. Find out what the person likes and engrave their name on it. As Dale Carnegie once said, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
When the recipient displays your gift, you will be brought up naturally to their network. This allows you to have opportunities for more referrals in a very subtle way. Just imagine if you formed 12 new deep relationships per year with the above methods: How do you think your life would change in just five years from now?
When you want to create relationships with people, really focus on understanding that relationships take patience. Understand that to make others like you and be interested in you, you have to be genuinely interested in them first.