People often marvel at how connected I am. I frequently hear, “Is there anyone you don’t know?” Like all business owners I am extremely busy, but I still manage to do the networking I need to stay connected. Clients are always asking me, “How do you do it?”
It’s imperative to develop and maintain relationships with people who can do business directly with you or refer business to you. But finding the hours in a day to keep in touch can be daunting.
Here are some of my tips for tackling the task and earning a reputation for being a key business connection.
1. Networking events: When I join an organization or start attending a monthly networking event I try to attend every month for three or four months so I can get to know the people and learn how to make the best of the event. Once I feel I have built strong enough relationships I may only attend every other month or once a quarter. This keeps me in touch with a lot of people in a short amount of time and reminds me of people I need to build stronger relationships with.
2. Use Facebook and LinkedIn to stay connected: Adding new connections after you meet them in person is an effective way to keep in touch and strengthen the relationship. I try to share articles and fun items with specific individuals to keep in communication with them, and not always on the topic of work. Spending 30 minutes to one hour a night doing that can lead to stronger connections in the real world. But be careful not to get sucked in for too long!
3. Lunch: There is much debate on the topic, but lunches are valuable to spend with people who you want to do business with. Since you’re going to take one anyway, they aren’t eating up extra time. During the lunch be straightforward and efficient: help them solve business problems, refer them to your clients and colleagues for future endeavors, and ask good questions so you can recommend products or services. That is a much more effective than simply pitching your services.
4. Attend events together: If there are people you want to spend time with and can’t find the time otherwise, ask them to attend a networking event with you. Drive together or take public transit together and talk on the way. If they have never been to the event before, work the room and introduce them to the people they should meet.
5. Prioritize: Making lists of those you want to keep in touch with is helpful. Prioritize the list and keep them updated. Keep in touch using different methods like phone, mail, email, social media, visits, or lunch. Base the frequency and type of contact on the priority.
6. Utilize technology to help you be efficient: Keeping in touch is key to relationships, and the technology we use every day helps to accomplish that very quickly. After all, we’re already using it, so why not take 30 seconds to email or text, and send a nice gesture to your potential collaborator, client or prospect? Social networking is a part of this, but when you’re sending emails, take time to send a few to people you’ve recently met with; refer to something you chatted with them about, send an article or tip sheet, provide a follow-up idea, or even just tell them about something they’d be interested in, like a new gym or iPhone app. This shouldn’t take more than 25-30 minutes, and helps to maintain genuine communications.
When it comes right down to it there is only so much time in the day and it is OK to say no to some relationships, especially if they are draining (in other words you may need to fire a few customers, business associates or friends). In the time I do have to connect I need to be around people who energize me not drain my energy.
So think of that when deciding which relationships to invest in.
Alice Heiman is owner of Alice Heiman LLC, a sales training company in Reno. Contact her at 775-852-5020 or through aliceheiman.com.