Expert Author Susan Leigh
Many of us in business are constantly being reminded of the importance of networking. We are advised to go to network meetings, exchange business cards, build a network of contacts, but most of us prefer to work and trade with people with whom we have established longer-term relationships. Rapport is an important part of that connection and getting to know, like and trust people takes a little time.
Let's look at some ways to establish those all important relationships:
- Keep in contact. It's often more beneficial to have fewer contacts, but one's that you meet with regularly, rather than have a wallet full of cards collected from people whose faces you can hardly remember. Some people make notes on the back of business cards to ensure that they can recall each person's identity, but maintaining too many contacts can be counter-productive. Remember, people expect referrals from you too, so establishing a network of people who support each other, meet fairly regularly for coffee and keep in touch is a positive way of building good relationships.
- Establish yourself as an expert. Be clear about what you have to offer, define your areas of expertise. Just because you know what you do doesn't mean that your contacts do. Many people assume that others know what their job title means but keeping in contact is a good way of reminding people of the diversity of your skills and the ways in which you can help them.
- Reinforce your reputation by offering training days, network events of your own, informative newsletters that are of value to your contacts. These are ways to regularly remind your clients of your ability to help and support their success.
- Establish trust. It is far better to refuse to sell something that would be a waste of your client's money, than to make a quick sale, a fast buck and lose their respect and long-term custom. Personally I'm happier to go to a dress shop where the assistant tells me honestly when something doesn't suit me than one where they enthuse over everything I try on. Trust is an important component in a good relationship.
- Be genuine. Remember what your contacts have told you, maybe make notes after each meeting so that when you next meet you can follow-up about their holiday, sick mother, children's exams. There may be times when you meet up and don't even mention business and that can be fine. Whenever they need your services you will be the person who springs to mind because there is a genuine relationship in place.
- Be generous. Give referrals when you can to your contacts. I knew one lady who was happy to give lots of referrals to others, yet received none in return. When the opportunity eventually presented itself one of her contacts was able to pass on an important, life-changing referral.
- Ask your contacts for referrals from their inner circle. Do they know anyone who would benefit from what you do? These are the important contacts that people will often only share with people they trust and respect. When you take the time to establish good relationships with your network of contacts they are often happy to refer their friends and contacts to you. But they need to know that you will do a good job, are trustworthy and reliable. When they make a referral their reputation is also at stake. In business, once you start getting referrals from your clients then your business starts to gain its own momentum.
Building good, quality relationships can improve your business life in many ways. When you establish good contacts you may find that you share useful experiences, offer advice and generally help each other in unexpected ways. Relationships in business are often about more that just the goods or services you provide. They can sometimes have the potential to enhance your chances of success.