Making Business Connections Really Count
Connections. Everyone in business knows they’re important – even vital to success. And everybody has connections of one kind of another. The key is to put those connections to work in ways and places that really count.
One thing that sets the most successful small businesses and startups apart from all the others is their ability to connect. If you can build strong relationships and connect with clients and customers, your business will almost certainly grow.
So how can you make this happen? First off, gather your strategies and tactics and start changing the way you work. Even if you’re a “lone wolf” type, the idea is to forge better business relationships and a network of colleagues and contacts who will stick with you. These are people who will voluntarily recommend your services to others.
If you’re ready to ramp it up, here are some tactics that can start getting you immediate results:
Plan your connection priorities
: Sometimes business relationships happen naturally over time. But mostly they’re built. Don’t worry if you’re not a “people person.” That’s not important. It’s not about charm. It’s about being aware of the relationships you are forming. Start with categories of people who are important to your success: clients, vendors and colleagues. Then move on to listing specific individuals in those categories and some ideas for connecting with each of them.
Remember, it’s not about you
: That’s hard to do. The urge to look out for Number One can be overwhelming when business success is at stake. But true success will elude you until you learn to ask “What’s in it for them?”
When your connections know that they really matter to you, and that you’re willing to help them, their attitudes change. Their respect for you grows, they'll work harder for you and be more aligned with your goals. This can be hard work and might even mean advising a client to make a prudent financial choice, even if you won't profit as much.
Don’t just network. Work with your network
. Technology has made networking seem almost too easy. Social media tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter let anyone create a giant web of business relationships. But that can be an illusion. A large online "network" of people you barely know (or don’t know at all) doesn't do you much good just sitting there. In order to truly leverage the business connections you make, you've got to put in some effort.
Try these strategies for keeping in touch:
- Meeting follow-up: Have a system for following up after a meeting, call, or contact with an individual or a business. This could be a handwritten note, an email, a phone call, or social media contact.
- Periodic individual contact: Initiate connections periodically with people on your list to stay in touch and maintain the relationship.
- Communication campaigns: Target a subgroup within your network (clients, prospects, etc.) whenever you have something you particularly want them to know.
Make it personal:
When you meet with a customer or client, resist the urge to make it all about your product or service. You’re there to talk about the client and what’s important to them. When you are only focused on selling something, the meeting is all about you.
Instead of merely extolling the virtues of your product (which, by the way, might imply the prospect chose badly in the past), find out what's important to them. Ask questions and actively listen to what they want. Try to understand where they are coming from as completely as you can.
Be connection-worthy and “referable” yourself.
If you want others to connect with you and send referrals, first make yourself “referable.” If clients aren’t recommending you, it may be a disconnect between you and your clients. Try developing a survey to uncover some of these insights.
Ask about perceptions of quality, time spent on the project, response to problems, willingness to go the extra mile, and what stood out. If you take this feedback seriously, you'll discover things you can do and change to move the needle. And clients will feel you've taken time to form a relationship with them, and they'll want to tell others about your business.
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