Running a successful business – or being successful at helping someone else run theirs – is about more than closing sales and expanding mailing lists. Interpersonal connections are the often-missing piece that can get you closer to achieving your goals. But establishing and maintaining business relationships doesn’t come easily to everyone.
These suggestions offer guidance to simple actionable approaches to grow your professional reach.
Think outside your immediate environment. Diversifying is always good advice that definitely applies to business affinities. Consider asking a vendor, customer, or competitor to lunch and explore what you have in common, as well as where your work diverges.
Be selective. It may seem counterintuitive, but more is not necessarily better when it comes to business relationships. Choose to establish and grow those connections where you each have a stake in the other’s success. In this way, you not only benefit from the other person’s experience and support, but also provide each other with value every time you interact.
Meet IRL (“in real life”). There is only so much networking that can be accomplished with LinkedIn or Slack. Take the next step with a colleague you’ve been connecting with virtually, and make a point to meet in person. If you travel for work, take advantage of the opportunity to seek out existing contacts at your destinations, or do the research to create some new ones.
Be authentic. In a world that is marketing to us constantly, and usually by automated technology, human authenticity is some precious currency. Whether you are reaching out to a customer or a colleague, keeping their experience in mind goes a long way to standing out as someone who can be trusted. Try listening more than talking. If you know a contact is facing a work challenge, offer to help or provide links to relevant information they may not have come across.
Circle back. When someone helps you solve a problem or gives you a lead, be sure to circle back with a “thank you” and/or status update. This extra interaction lets your contact know that the recommendation or referral was valuable. Moreover, it shows that you value the relationship and wish to maintain it.