That title’s a biggie, but it’s an important concept for any business person to grasp. And live by, at least if they want their career, and their business to thrive.
The difficulty is that it is easier said than done. In fact, for most, it is the most common networking challenge they face, staying in touch with people when so much else is going on around them every day. But it’s not enough to meet someone once and then expect to maintain that connection.
Relationships of any kind, including business relationships, call for both a good rapport and trust, things that can only reasonably be built over time. Taking the time to nurture business relationships can really pay off though, for both parties.
Professional relationships can be beneficial for a lifetime, not just while the parties involved work for a particular firm or in a certain field. But busy people lose touch too easily. The tips below, however, should help you do just that and build those useful connections over time.
Be a Helpful Contact.
Everyone’s email inboxes are overstuffed, and most successful people maintain calendars that look more like a game of Tetris than a reasonable schedule for a human being to follow. Often, they are overwhelmed by the demands on their time and so a random, somewhat nagging email sent to stay in touch will often go unnoticed (or straight into the junk folder)
If you want to build and maintain a relationship send something that offers real value to your contact instead.
Share your personal experiences, expertise or offer constructive feedback. Offer to make introductions to others you know that will benefit the person you are emailing. Share articles that may be helpful, or interesting to them. In other words, add value to their inbox to stand out.
Even the busiest of people appreciate it when they are offered something of real value. By becoming known as the ‘helper’ in your network your position in it will get stronger. And when you help others they will naturally be more inclined to help you if and when you need them to do so.
Keep Everyone Updated
In their social lives, most people like to spend their time with those who are friendly, funny and entertaining. In their professional life things are a little different, as they tend to gravitate to those who they believe are important and/or inspiring in their field.
In order to build relationships with these kinds of people you must be one yourself, or at least come across that way until you are. Yes, you should listen and learn but it’s also OK to brag once in a while.
By sending regular updates about what you are learning and what you’ve been doing, and asking your contacts to do the same in return you’ll be advancing and strengthening the relationship with surprisingly little effort.
Some may shy away from doing this for fear of seeming too forward, but people do actually appreciate that you are thinking of them and find them important enough to be kept in the loop. And everyone loves being asked about themselves.
Get used to sending these updates and there is a very good chance that you will find that others respond with thoughtful comments in return, or with those all-important offers to introduce you to a useful third party who can help advance your career and learning even further.
Be More Visible
Staying in touch via regular emails is important but you should make an effort to become more visible online in general as well. To do so take the time to create and maintain strong profiles on professionally acceptable social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Maintain a professional blog. Offer thoughtful answers on sites like Quora.
By doing this you will further cement your reputation as an expert in your field and as a contact that is worth making the effort to stay in touch with and, when appropriate come to for advice and guidance. Once that rapport is established, you will then be able to do the same.
Stay Top of Mind
As previously mentioned, building a real rapport with professional contacts takes time and effort and that all important consistent contact. This means that it is a bad idea to let too much time go by without reminding your contacts that you exist. Staying top of mind is a must.
Regular emails and a strong social presence are great, but occasionally you will have to go the extra mile. Ask your contacts to attend an event you are speaking at, or simply to meet up for a cup of coffee when you happen to be in the same town. Even in a tech driven world, personal, face to face contact is still important.
A Final Thought
Keeping up with, and staying in touch with people is without a doubt difficult in a busy, always on world. When you meet people all the time it can be easy to forget to stay in touch and then not quite know how to reconnect.
By following some of the strategies outlined here it should be easier to do so though, and that can only be a good thing for your career.