At traditional networking events and online networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn, the focus is simply connecting you with as many people as possible. We need to shift our networking goals from numbers and volume to quality and relationships. After all, the point of networking is to connect yourself with others who can help you, as well as you help them. Relationships, communication and trust are fundamental for this. Simply exchanging business cards doesn’t build communication or trust.
According to John G. Ango, an executive business coach:
“The formula for success = your human capital (what you know) times your social capital (who you know) times your reputation (who trusts you).”
When you build relationships you are increasing your social capital and reputation. You may even build your human capital too because you can learn a lot through your relationships.
Building Relationships 101
When was the last time you’ve met an excellent contact and developed a relationship at a networking event? It’s probably been a while, if it has ever happened to you at all. Networking situations aren’t always conducive to creating relationships. There are many distractions, expectations and information hustlers – the people who collect massive stacks of business cards.
After you’ve met someone, when you call or email, do you have to explain how and where you met? If so, does that count as a contact and is it worth having? By building meaningful working relationships, you will know your contacts and they will know you. This builds trust, which can lead to amazing opportunities.
Relationships blossom in non-networking, low stress, situations (dinner parties and social settings) because nothing is expected. This environment allows everyone to act natural. If you aren’t expected to connect with someone, when you do connect it’s genuine and authentic; the spark is there and the ideas flow. Through these connections, relationships are formed. You should always be ready to start a new relationship. Here are some tips to help you:
Make New Relationships
Starting a relationship is like inspiration, you never know when it will hit. Taking a moment now to prepare will help you when your next relationship starts.
- Always Be Prepared – A business card is your most basic relationship tool, it allows others to connect with you. Step one is to make sure you always have your business card with you. This is the easy part and the challenge lays ahead.
- Shareable Ideas – Think of 3 interesting ideas and keep them in the back of your mind, current events and popular topics work well. These ideas will act as a springboard when you meet someone new. These topics allow you to open a dialog, which is the first step to building a relationship.
- Empathize – Think not only of yourself. Try to imagine the other person’s needs. How could you help them? What can you offer? By giving a little, you can get a lot.
- Spend The Time – Spend the time to get to know someone. Don’t pressure yourself into meeting as many people as possible. Slow down and connect with those who are around you. Like anything of value, a relationship takes time to build.
Once you focus on building relationships instead of gathering business cards, following up with others is easy and fun. For starters, you’ll have less people to contact because you’ve spent time communicating and sharing ideas. Also, when you reach out to your contacts, you’ll have something important and interesting to say, based on your previous conversation.
It’s All About Relationships
Remember, the goal is to establish lasting working relationships. Reach out and talk to your peers, neighbors and those around you. Take an interest in them and you’ll be surprise with the results.