Building And Maintaining Business Relationships
In the 5th of this series on getting more business through networking I will be writing about business relationships. A business relationship is a series of interactions over time like any other one. You can either wait for others to lead those interactions or you can take the lead yourself by being proactive with your follow up. The people who get the most from their networking are the proactive ones. The ones who make the phone calls, send cards, organise 1-2-1 meetings and regularly use the communication tools that the internet has brought. To be proactive and productive you will probably need some sort of system to keep your contacts up to date with a record of your interactions.
The internet has given us the tools to be really effective at keeping in touch with people between the times we meet. In particular with Email, Social Media and Online Networks. This is increasingly available to us when we are out and about and not just when we are at our desks.
Most people in Business and Professional Services have a Linkedin Profile. A simple way of following up with someone when you have met for the first time is to agree to connect on Linkedin. The act of following that up and making the connection request is a simple demonstration of doing something you agreed to do. This is an important step in building a trusted relationship. You can also follow or friend on other platforms where appropriate.
An important place to build relationships is in the networking groups you join with others that share the markets you operate in. Your aim in groups like this is to get to the stage with some people where you can advocate them and they can advocate you. At some stage it will be important to start meeting 1-2-1 so you can really get to know someone and what makes them tick. 1-2-1 meetings are the real engine of productive business networking relationships. There is a danger, however, that they can become general chats with no business context or be completely dominated by one person. To avoid this you need to be clear about your aims for the meeting itself and what happens next. It is also important to communicate that clearly to the other person.You can do this by way of a simple agreed agenda. I use this mindmap to remind me at the start of the meeting to make sure we agree certain basics.
This mindmap reminds me to agree at least the following.
1. The overall purpose of the meeting,
2. The timing of the meeting,
3. Whether there are any interuptions anticipated,
4. Part of the meeting is for me to find out about you and your business and part is for you to find out about me and mine.
5. Once we have learned about each other can we see ourselves developing a mutually beneficial advocate relationship,
6. If we are not going to develop further it is ok to agree now,
7. If we are going to develop further then agree next steps.
Agreeing the next step ensures that the relationship is ongoing and part of a series of interactions over time that will benefit both parties. In the next part of this blog series I will cover how you nurture these business relationships and turn them into real profit for each other.
For links to all 8 blogs in the series go to How To Win More Business Through Networking.