Networking and Relationship Building
10 Steps to Building Better New Business Relationships
Most of us have in our minds a simple view of the kind of people that we tend to like most. We determine this in a range of different ways but factors may include how relatively outgoing, upbeat, knowledgeable, happy, creative etc. the other person may be (and for the most part the more like us this is, the better we like it). But while this may be a good way to find friends, in business life, we want to build good business relationships with as many people as possible and “click” with them at least at some level (and not necessarily find a complete business “soul mate”). In order to do this, this brief article describes ten approaches that everyone can take when meeting new business contacts.
Step 1: Be as friendly as possible
Many people (and leaders in particular) do not realize that they are not very friendly or approachable and this immediately puts other people on the defensive. As a result, make an active effort to smile more often and be as open as possible.
Step 2: Be as enthusiastic and optimistic as possible
Although we can’t always be enthusiastic about building new business relationships (sometimes we just don’t feel “in the mood”) when you do, approach the whole thing with enthusiasm and optimism. This helps to lift every conversation and makes even the most quiet and recalcitrant of people share more and smile.
Step 3: Take a real and genuine interest in the other person you meet.
Take the view that every person has something “special” to offer by finding out what makes people who they are. This is best done by asking lots of questions and listening.
Step 4: Get people to initially talk about themselves
In any new relationship, especially in business the temptation is to take the conversation “hostage” especially if the other person is quiet or slow to respond to opening statements or questions. Instead, encourage them to talk more and about themselves and their interests and goals.
Step 5: Listen carefully
Once you have got a person to open up you must listen carefully and to not only the words, but to what’s said “between the lines” and in body language too. This may involve becoming comfortable with more silence than you might be used to and only asking gentle questions now and again to get deeper when necessary.
Step 6: Look for a common connection
By getting people to talk and listening carefully, seek to find something that connects you to the other person somewhere in their background, history, experience or interests. This might be a familiar geography or love of place, a sport you both enjoy, a pastime or hobby that you share etc.
Step 7: Learn from every encounter
We all know we can’t build a relationship with everyone but we can learn from every encounter that we have. This might be learning about ourselves and better ways to present ourselves or about the other person and how we need to pivot or change our behavior to better click with them (or people like them) in the future.
Step 8: Ask for input
Although you start a conversation by getting the other person to open up, share and then listen, this cannot be a “one way street”. Make sure that you therefore ask for specific input, insights or for advice on something that you care about or want to know given what they have said to you.
Step 9: Follow up and build the relationship
When the initial conversation is over, close it in the most friendly way possible and then follow up to build the relationship. This may be a simple “thank you” or “nice to meet you” email but, even better, it should refer to the conversation you had and perhaps suggest another step (a follow up call or meeting or someone else that he or she should meet). This helps to build the relationship.
Step 10: Review your new relationships
You will not “click” with every new person you meet, but relationships take time to build and solidity. Review who you have met every month or every 3 months at most and take the time to think about how you might like to make contact again where appropriate to help take it to the next stage.
Building new business relationships or networking to do so is not something that everyone enjoys. However, it is a necessary part of life and it should be therefore approached carefully and done as well as possible. If you follow as many of the above 10 steps as you can, you’ll be amazed at how many people you “click” with more and how many of these become new and valuable business colleagues.