By Jamar Cobb-Dennard
After attending a invigorating networking event that featured coffee, networking, and stirring speakers, a longtime friend noticed something striking. When he was a business owner some 12 years ago, he did not spend his time networking and building relationships to build his company. My response to him included the assertion that networking, in its current form, did not exist a decade ago. However, relationship building is essential to success in today’s marketplace.
Of course, people have been doing business by forming professional relationships forever, but how they initially enter into those relationships has changed. New connections and opportunities are created by people making referrals.
As a result, I routinely run into professionals who can attribute 60-80 percent of their accomplishments to relationship building or networking.
The challenge for 21st Century leaders is how to build effective business relationships.
The following keys to building relationships will help you establish and leverage a network to achieve professional and personal growth:
- Remember Everyone’s Name – How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie, states that the sweetest sound to anyone’s ears is the sound of their own name. Make it your mission to remember the name of every person you meet. To keep names in mind, say it at the beginning, end, and throughout your conversation, imagine it painted on their forehead, mentally associate that person with someone else you know who has the same name, and have them spell or tell you the origin of their name.
- Pay Attention to Others – National Seminar’s Group trains its students to pay attention to the WIIFM factor (pronounced “whiff-em”), or “What’s in it For Me?” Who do people care the most about – themselves or others? Themselves! Taking a genuine interest in other people’s needs, goals, and how you can help them, makes quick friends who are eager to repay your interest in them with an introduction to the right person in their network.
- Make Connections Regularly – The best relationship builders are actively working for those who are in their network. Tony Scelzo, founder of Rainmakers Marketing Group, which was once the second largest business association in Indiana, calls this activity “building bridges”. Schedule time to build bridges weekly by looking through your list of connections, and introducing them to someone beneficial through email.
- Say Yes to Everything – One of the rules of improvisation is to say ‘yes’ to everything. The same rule can be applied to professional networking. Especially at the beginning, meet everyone, get involved with them, and explore new opportunities with new people.
- Stay Visible – One day during a walk I passed someone from my network, and casually said hello. At the end of our quick exchange, he asked for me to call him. Thirty days later, I had a new contract in hand for business. Generating results from networking can truly be that simple if you regularly attend professional functions, are visible at social events, and engage with people during interesting gatherings.
- Save Them and Be Social – Cell phones contacts and business cards get lost. Use an inexpensive database to store your contacts and keep your relationships forever. We use a product called addresstwo.com that also allows us to easily connect with our network on social media. Doing so keeps our face in front of the right people, and reminds us who they are as well.
- Nurture Strategic Relationships – As you become adept at building relationships, not all connections will be equal. The most valuable relationships are “strategic”, which are contacts who represent different parts of the same goal or outcome. For example, when a realtor sells a home, an inspector, appraiser, mortgage broker, and title officer, are all part of the transaction. Even though anyone could bring value within a network, strategic partnerships can help you accomplish your goals much faster.
Building relationships is the cornerstone to success in 21st Century business. Professionals without a strong network are a commodity, and those who put in the work to create long lasting bonds are invaluable.
Jamar Cobb-Dennard is a sales recruiter who was recognized as a Top 50 Business Connector and Networking Rookie of the Year. You can learn more about him at http://hire-sales.net.