Not a week go by when I don’t get a request from some random person requesting that I hook them up with Essence Magazine or Huffington Post. I’m not exaggerating when I say random people either. The majority of these inquiries come from people whom I have never even had ONE interaction with, needless to say, I know personally. The rest of the appeals come from folks I barely know that weren’t all that interested in me until they decided I could do something for them. Ahhh, now you see my dilemma!
I always wonder why they think I would risk a personal referral for a person I’m don’t know or more importantly, someone I don’t have a relationship with. Here is a little known truth: People do business with people that they know, trust and LIKE! Go ahead and mull that over a bit, because its going to be key for understanding the rest of this post.
Referrals and professional favors are actually delicate subjects. In most cases I have spent years or at the very least months cultivating strategic connections, I’ve worked hard at earning their trust and loyalty. So every time I make a referral, the person I’m referring technically piggybacks on my reputation! Well, before that happens, I need to make doggone sure this reference isn’t going to dent my reputation.
Lately, I have come to realize that while many people are great at making surface connections, not everyone understand how to create valuable relationships. So I’ve decided to share some of my do’s and don’ts when it comes to building professional relationships.
1. Do create WIN-WIN-WIN opportunities.
Nothing will turn a new connection sour quicker than a one sided deal. It’s important to create reciprocal opportunities any time you ask for a professional favor. I use a formula that I call WIN-WIN-WIN. There needs to be a WIN for you, a WIN for me and a WIN for both brands. It is possible for two people to make money and end of damaging one or both brands, so the brand should always be a factor. So in the words of DJ Khaled think “All I do is win, win, win no matter what…”.
2. Don’t be a GIMME GIMME gal/ guy.
A relationship with your audience is still a professional relationship of sorts, and should be treated as such. It’s never a good look to come with your hand out asking for things repeatedly. This week you’re begging for support in this, next month there is a crowd-funding project for that… When I see this kind of behavior I just want to grab a sock full of beans and smack folks in the head and say “Homey don’t play dat” (in my Damon Wayans voice). Seriously, before you ask folks to support you (especially financially), they need to be getting something out of the deal. And I mean something other than the satisfaction of helping YOUR cause (where is Homey D. Clown when you need him?!). It’s great to offer token gifts of appreciation or even recognition for a certain level of commitment. Remember when someone else invests in your dream its a gift, not a responsibility.
3. Do be a CONNECTOR.
I’ve found one of the fastest ways to build a relationship is to connect other people with someone they didn’t know about, but could desperately use in their circle. Someone like a good accountant or a person in a similar industry. For example, I get called for media appearances quite frequently, sometimes I ask the host if I can recommend another guest on the topic (hosts are ALWAYS looking for guests). Usually the guest I recommend is someone I’m trying to build or have a significant relationship with. Right away they see the value in the connection, and out of appreciation they often offer to help me in some way. But for the record, I NEVER expect anything in return. Which brings me to the next point.
5. Don’t EXPECT anything.
Just because you do something amazing for a colleague doesn’t mean they will return the favor, some people are just not that considerate. But once you put that good karma out there, it will always find it’s way back to you. Consideration and thoughtfulness should be staples in your business relationships toolbox. Both characteristics go a long way towards establishing loyalty and keeping you top of mind with people in your network.
4. Don’t be a CRITIC.
When it comes to landing new clients, I’ve seen some business owners try to land a gig by telling the prospect all the things they are doing wrong. This approach won’t go very far in building a relationship, and it won’t likely land you a client either. Rather than focus on telling a new connection what they are doing wrong, tell them what they are doing right, and how you can help them get to the next level. THAT is what every entrepreneur ultimately wants, to get to the next level. Use your success as a selling tool, not their failures.
5. Do PATRONIZE me.
In the beginning of this post I mentioned how people inquire about my media connections a lot. I usually try to offer them simple answers, but the truth is…. there isn’t always a simple answer. These inquiring minds are happy to take free information, but refuse to pay for a class where I am sharing very detailed strategies. Patronizing new connections by buying tickets to their event, hiring them for services or simply promoting their event on social media can solidify an unproven connection.
6. Don’t RUSH it.
Relationships should grow organically. In this microwave society we believe after one conversation we have a good idea who someone is. That simply isn’t true. You can’t understand a person until you have observed some consistent patterns over a period of time. When I person seems distant, don’t take it personally because folks are sometimes not what they say they are or who they appear to be. The large number of “posers” and opportunists out there make it tough to earn trust. So in that vein, don’t rush the process. Let people get to know you on their own terms in their own time. Take the time to get to know what matters to a person and how they best receive information. Having this information
7. Do be AUTHENTIC!
As the founder of the Emotional Nudity Lifestyle, you know I couldn’t leave this one out. We are often taught the “fake it, til you make it” concept when it comes to building connections. We believe that its important to look successful and be nearly perfect before we can get people to trust us. But recent trends are pointing the serious flaw in that concept. After all, perfectly polished professionals can deliver shabby work too! But moreover, it’s important that you allow people to build relationships based on who you REALLY are, and not a fake version of you. Otherwise it is unlikely that the connection will last. Remember when I said that people do business with folks that they know, trust and LIKE. Where here is where the LIKE comes in handy.
Whew!! Sorry if that took a while, but I had a lot to say on this topic. In the interest of time, let me wrap up by leaving you with one final tip: Make the connection, build the relationship and appreciate the person.
Meanwhile, I would love to hear your tips on building professional relationships.
Jai Stone (The Emotional Nudist & Master Brand Coach)
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