One thing that cannot be understated is the power of word of mouth, and personal connections in the marketplace of competing services.
We go with what (and who) we know and it makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
So today’s topic is all about meaningful business connections: why they’re important and how to make them.
Your time is as valuable as mine, so let’s get started.
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know
There is an age-old adage, it goes: “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.
Indeed, these days for many it isn’t a case of businesses competing against businesses – but rather “networks competing against networks”.
(This is something Jamil Quereshi talks about, which is someone I highly recommend looking into).
From a business perspective, the development of rich and deep networks can often be a bit of a nebulous and undefined practice.
It’s either something that: 1) simply “happens” implicitly as you conduct business and begin making connections with people.
(The problem here is the lack of a systematic approach.)
Or: 2) it’s contrived and awkward with business cards flying around in a largely superficial way – safe in the knowledge we’re unlikely to really look at them again.
(This intense activity tends to be more deliberate and “salesy” – which of course switches people off.)
The problem here is a lack of a deeper connection being made.
So how do you get the best of both worlds?
The 3 golden rules
The goal: gaining meaningful and beneficial business connections in a consistent way.
The trick to achieving that goal is to follow 3 golden rules...
Rule number 1: it’s not all about you
First and foremost, it is important to listen to people.
I mean really listen to them.
It is quite funny how often you see people go into conversations with new contacts with the overwhelming desire to talk about what the business can provide.
People’s favourite topic to speak about is often themselves – it also puts them at ease to talk about things they are familiar with, issues they face and what they care about.
It is important that you’re a human before you’re a business - and first impressions matter.
If you want people to care about you, you need to care about them.
Rule number 2: the rule of 7 (it takes time)
Someone must interact with you 7 times (at least) before they decide to move forward with any meaningful business activity.
So, once you have made that initial connection it is important to stay on people’s radars.
A lot of people can be impatient when it comes to this and almost give an ultimatum when or straight after they have met someone!
Good follow-up activities which a lot of people don’t do include:
Follow-up emails to provide contact info and say thanks for the meeting
Inviting people to sign up for newsletters and social media
Connecting via LinkedIn and other social media (after the initial connection has been made
And so on!
During this time, you may also give people a broad indication of what you do and how you might be able to help them or their network.
To be clear this is not a “pitch”, but rather a clear explanation of what you can do so you’re top of mind should someone need it.
Rule number 3: keep it rhythmic
A professional network at its best is like a garden which blooms.
If that is something you want to enjoy, you must be “planting seeds” and watering all year around.
Equally, it is important to not get lost in the weeds and overcomplicate things.
What you want is a system which is simple to maintain daily, weekly and monthly basis and which grants you as much time as possible to enjoy the scenery.
So, what does that look like?
Well think of it as a process that involves these three steps, which you should look to :
1. Initial conversations
You want to have a target number of conversations that you are aiming to have with people every week.
Ideally, these conversations are in person, or if you’re stuck, over video chat. This is important because simply put, it is a more memorable and human interaction.
Again, it is important that these conversations are all about listening to the other person and understanding where they are at, and what they care about.
You might find that even with these you get people interested in speaking business with you – but this is not the objective of the conversation unless it explicitly comes up.
One person a week, gets you 52 new valued contacts a year. Two doubles that. And if these are people who are your target client or referrer, that is not insignificant!
2. Light touch follow-up bringing people into your orbit
Once you have made positive initial contact with several people, it is important to keep them in your orbit.
Often this means implicit and explicit communication with them. As above, you can do this inadvertently just from them following you and seeing the things you post. (Note: it is important to be active in places that people visit daily.)
For the most part, this is LinkedIn but can also be things like email circulars and online and in-person events.
In essence, this just serves as a rhythmic reminder that you are “there” for people if and when they need you.
3. Occasional “tractor beams”
Finally, and only when absolutely appropriate, you can reach out to people with highly relevant material at the right time.
This might be sharing a useful resource or news story which is super relevant to what they do and the things you’ve spoken about in the past.
Ultimately, this is a more active engagement that simply keeps top of mind as above – but it reaffirms that you’re tuned into them and their broader concerns.
Don’t overthink it and be generous!
A lot of people get in their own way when it comes to this.
We’ve all had that awkward experience of being “sold to” and none of us really want to impose that experience on anyone else when we’re making connections.
It’s not about creating a “hitlist” or a “funnel” – instead, it is about getting on as many people’s radars as possible as a person first and foremost.
Then ensure that people are aware of what you do so you’re top of their list when they need it.
I think from experience we all know this is achieved by simply putting something valuable out there in a generous and non-imposing way.
It’s not rocket science! Nor should it be something that happens entirely by accident.
What do you think – is this something that you’ve struggled with in the past?
Or have you cracked and have any tips which I can share with everyone else?
Would love to hear from you.
Feel free to get in touch in the usual way! (Button below or reply to this email).