What is the most important form of currency in your business? You may think that the answer is something to do with your bottom line, or protecting your business, but actually it’s far simpler – it’s all to do with relationships. Whether it’s networking with potential investors, turning customers into advocates or forging close bonds with suppliers, building and maintaining great relationships is absolutely essential and can be transformative for any small business. When you have the ability to make contacts and tell your authentic story, truly great things can happen. But what is the most tactical way to form these bonds?
Reach Out To People Purposefully
There can be an awful lot of missed connections in life if we don’t approach the art of networking with intention. When meeting people and making contacts is on our radar, the game changes. In each new situation that you go into, be aware of who you are meeting. It doesn’t matter if you can’t see an immediate benefit – networking should be more organic than that. There may be a connection down the line – for you, or even for someone else, as putting others together for their mutual benefit is also a part of it. Whether it’s hooking someone up so they can find an angel investor who specialises in their industry sector or finding amazing Third Party Logistics Services that can be a game changer for a business struggling with their distribution network, you never know who is just around the corner. Change your mindset to be actively seeking out contacts and go out prepared with a stock of business cards featuring your LinkedIn profile address and you’ll be more prepared to turn chance into fortune.
Give The Personal Touch
Relationship development is absolutely not about selling, first and foremost. It’s about establishing and then deepening a connection. If you find someone valuable who you’re hoping to form a business relationship with, start by connecting personally. Tell them something that you admire about their approach or what they do and invite them for a coffee. Spend a little time of getting to know them and what their goals are. Don’t jump straight to the hard sell – just make it about forging that initial bond.
Keep The Contact Going
Once formed, you need to put some work into keeping the connection going. Create a list of 50 or so key stakeholders that you’d like to have on your contacts list this year – anyone who has referred you some business lately or who could be a great opportunity for a business collaboration. From this list, keep in touch in a non-intrusive way – you may choose to send them a holiday card, say a quick hello on social media and make sure you re-tweet them, and drop in to see them if you happen to be near where they are based.
Relationships are the biggest form of capital that your business has. Developing and maintaining your network should be a priority for any business with its eyes on future development. Remember that it’s a long game and needs to feel organic – think of others, show them genuine respect and consideration and they will think of you when the time comes.