Relationships are the key to your professional success. Opportunities often result because of who knows you and what you’re capable of. Your connections can offer you opportunities directly or refer you to others. Are you investing in establishing and cultivating relationships? The pace of today’s business keeps many of our schedules full with little or no room to add meetings or activities. But relationships are critical to organizations and careers so making time for them is important.
Make Time to Build Relationships
While social networking and staying in touch online has become popular, nothing can replace face-to-face interactions with others. Whether you’re building relationships on behalf of your employer or for yourself, you can increase how meaningful they are by ensuring that you spend time with others getting to truly know them and build trust over time. This takes setting aside time and putting forth the effort. You’ll need to plan time for these types of conversations just as you would any other business meeting. Be deliberate and spend a portion of your time with clients, potential clients and your colleagues and other acquaintances just getting to know one another and building trust.
Network strategically and understand in advance if you want to gain insight from others or pursue other specific objectives. Be purposeful with your approach to meeting others and nurturing relationships with in person networking. By this I mean having an idea in advance of a networking event what you hope to achieve at the event. Find out as much as you can about the event and who may be attending that you want to reconnect with or meet. Then do your homework. If it’s a dinner you’ll be attending, you can learn a great deal about others through a simple Google search. You may discover shared interests, shared connections or points of contention. You can use this type of information to be prepared with conversation starters that can be the foundation for meaningful conversations. Be proactive and suggest additional meetings or follow-up action if you discover shared interests or believe you may be able to assist one another or work together in the future. Set the stage for the next step in building the relationship.
You can adapt techniques from basic client cultivation processes to your networking and relationship building. For example, if you meet someone connected to another professional who is positioned to recommend you for a board position that you seek, you could plan to get to know one another over time. This gives them time to learn more about you and your capabilities. Relationships are built on trust and trust takes time to build. Be selective and follow-up with others that you meet at networking events. Reach out and proactively work to grow relationships. During each interaction be prepared to suggest the next action or be prepared to follow-up with a call, email or note as appropriate. By following up you can be memorable and set the tone for continued interactions.
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