As the old saying goes, “It’s not what you know but who you know.” For entrepreneurs, this couldn’t be truer.
But it isn’t easy. Relationships need trust and rapport, which requires consistent contact over time.
For those looking to nurture and build valued connections, here are some tips:
1. Be helpful.
In a professional setting, people like to have relationships with those that can help their career or business. Be that person. It will help both your network and you get stronger.
Offer relevant and mutually beneficial introductions. Provide advice, expertise or feedback. Share information such as events, articles or research that may be helpful. Promote your contact’s work by sharing it with others.
Per the law of reciprocity, when you are helpful to others, people will feel more inclined to be helpful to you.
2. Keep people posted.
Send updates about what you’re learning and accomplishing and ask your contacts to do the same. By doing so, you can determine who in your network is inspiring and excellent in respective fields, which can lead to connections down the road.
3. Stay top of mind.
You don’t want to go extended periods of time without being on someone’s radar. Ask people to join you for coffee or invite them to an event you’re attending or organising.
Because people tend to be busy, make sure you always have a reason to meet. If you don’t, you can still stay in touch remotely. Ask a quick question over email. People will feel complimented that you’re viewing them as an expert and will be happy to provide advice.
You can also communicate with people on social networks or comment on their blogs. I keep a spreadsheet of my high priority contacts with a column that lists the date of our most recent communication. I also use email-reminder service Followup.cc to reconnect.
4. Be visible.
Make it easy for people to see you and know what you’re doing online.
Maintain a strong online presence on relevant social network sites like LinkedIn or Twitter. Also, publish a blog to publicly promote your expertise and provide updates on your learnings and achievements to your network.