Everyone tells you the key to building your business is relationships. Articles abound about how relationships facilitate introductions to contacts that can help you.
The question is, how do you initiate relationships? How do you develop and nurture them so you can meet people who can help you?
In a word, network-network-network.
Okay, you hear that all the time. What does it mean to network?
- It means thinking about people you know and who know you who could conceivably help you with your startup, with finding clients, with getting a different job, finding a gig, etc.
- It means scrolling through your current contacts list. This probably includes names from companies where you’ve worked or from organizations you know. If you kept their card or their email address, did you nurture a relationship?
- It means looking at contacts you made in companies where you worked or were a consultant. If you have been an employee or a contractor, you met a number of people in each assignment. Did you take the time to get to know them? They know you from the work you performed and from seeing you on the job. They are an excellent source about what is happening in your area of expertise.
- It means finding events that complement your business goals. Look for events that like-minded people will attend. Go to events that feature topics that are interesting to potential clients that complement your services. Don’t forget to set up follow-up meetings to get to know these contacts better.
- Look at classmates from high school and college. Who knows you better than they do? Those relationships can open unimaginable doors.
Take time to develop relationships.
It’s not a one-shot deal. It may take months to cultivate a contact that can help you. The first, second or third person may not be able to help you. The fourth or fifth one might.
You will need to form lots of relationships. Cultivate them by sending information or articles of interest with a subject line that says, “John, I thought this would be of interest to you.” It is a means of keeping the lines of communication open.
One thing leads to another
You never know when you might meet someone who will develop into a long-term relationship, either as a partner or a client. Don’t be afraid to open up a dialogue with the person sitting next to you at a conference. Take a seat at a table with people you don’t know. By the end of the lunch or break, you will.
People want to work with people they like and trust. Take the time to cultivate relationships to win that trust. And remember you need to circle back to check in on your contacts. That’s what ensures a long-term relationship.