Relationships are an integral part of business success and it’s important that we make them a priority. The possibilities of having a large and nurtured professional network are endless. The more people we meet, the more people will remember who we are and what we do. We have all probably heard Zig Ziglar’s famous quote:
“You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want”.
Building real and mutually beneficial relationships requires consistent and dedicated work over time. In order to build a great community around our brand, we have to put others first and establish ourselves as listeners and helpers. If we dedicate enough time to building and nurturing a community, it will be there for us when we need it. When done right, our community will be excited to return the support and kindness.
Building a Community
We should not focus only on nurturing relationships with our prospects and customers, but expand it to other groups of relationships. These groups might differ based on the type of our business and our goals. They can include our employees, business partners, investors, suppliers, resellers, editors, analysts, bloggers, influencers, strategic partners, third party developers, advisors, etc.
Maintaining strategic relationships around our business can help raise brand awareness, build an engaged community around our brand, drive word-of-mouth referrals, more traffic to our website and drive sales.
Identifying The Right People
Who are the individuals we should be focusing on and where to find them? We should first figure out what our goals are and what we are trying to accomplish. A good start can be to focus on the people that already exist around our brand. Then we can expand it to those that can help us reach our goals. Industry influencers and bloggers are a great group to focus on as they have already built engaged communities around them who trust their opinions. Social media is great for prospecting and networking. My personal favorite is Twitter. The main reason is that it is very easy to start conversations on this platform. Without having to even follow anybody, I can engage in conversations with people from anywhere in the world.
Twitter also has an amazing feature called Lists which are great for filtering the contacts we want to focus on from the rest. Another great way to use Twitter Lists is for identifying who to connect with by subscribing to other people’s lists as explained in this post.
Doing Research. Taking Notice. Starting Conversations
The best way to get someone’s attention is to notice something about them. Most business professionals have some kind of social presence or curate and/or create content. Almost all of them have a LinkedIn profile. Paying attention to what people are talking about on social media, what they are liking and sharing, what they are excited and passionate about can open doors to starting a conversation. When reaching out, we should make it all about the person and be genuinely interested in them.
Jumping On A Discovery Call And Learning More About Each Other
Brynne Tillman, a LinkedIn Trainer and Social Selling Coach makes networking a priority and asks 20 connections a day to meet for a call and makes 10-12 calls each week. She prepares well for her calls and makes it a point to provide great insights, information and resources to proove that she can be of value to them and make their time worthwhile.
Even if many of these calls don’t lead to an immediate business result, it is a great way to learn more about each other and our companies.
Offering Help. Giving And Expecting Nothing In Return
While on the call, we should aim to establish ourselves as listeners and helpers. We could offer to make introductions, offer help with spreading the word about the person’s company and services, we could review their latest book or review their product on a review site. It can be small but even small things can go a long way.
Following-up And Keeping Our Promises
We should never underestimate the importance of the follow-up. Following up with people on what we have promised and actually doing it can make or break the relationship we have just established. Sending a quick follow-up email after the call should be a standart thing. In this email, it is polite to thank them for their time and reinstate what we have agreed on doing. The next step is to keep our promise. This can be tricky given the amount of things we have to get done on daily basis. One way around this is to keep notes in our CRM system and schedule reminders.
Staying In Touch And Nurturing Relationships Over Time
Relationships won`t grow unless they are nurtured. This can be done in the form of keeping an eye on what our connections are sharing and liking on LinkedIn or other social platforms. Commenting on few statuses, answering few questions, commenting on people’s promotions or other life events does not take too much of our time and can really help with strenghtening the relationship. It’s always good to connect with people in multiple places as each social platform is different and offers different opportunities to deepen the relationships.
“LinkedIn is like going into the lobby of your business contact. Twitter is more like going for a walk or taking them to lunch or a ballgame. Facebook is like having dinner in their home. All are great ways to connect. You need at least two of them to be effective. If I was restricted to one I’d choose Twitter. It’s the most relevantly natural way to authentically connect in a human personal way.” [Forbes]
Reaching Out When The Time is Right
Jill Rowley, Speaker and Social Selling Evangelist, says that the ABC in sales no longer stands for “Always Be Closing” but for “Always Be Connecting”. If we make networking and nurturing our network a priority, be consistent in it and establish ourselves as helpers, connectors and trusted advisors among our community, we will learn that once we need help with something, there will be an army of people willing to help us.