Don’t Network. Connect.
How to Really Network Connect and Build Relationships
You’ve heard this before: “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
You’ve also heard that you should surround yourself with people you aspire to be like, that are successful in areas of life you are striving to reach, whether in business, finances, wisdom, freedom, lifestyle, relationships, or anything else for that matter.
I actually agree with those statements.
The missing link is not just knowing someone but rather creating a connection and building a relationship.
The picture I get when I think of networking is when someone asked you to come to a business networking event and everyone there hands out their business cards to others and tells you what they do. It’s rushed and not very genuine, as you can feel the “what’s in it for me” aura, and people are more interested in talking about themselves than in listening to others.
Connecting and building relationships happens over time, and it takes a lot more than just giving out a business card or holding a five-minute conversation with someone. When you meet a mentor, a possible joint venture partner, a person of influence in your community, or anyone else, you have to remember that they meet a lot of people and if you do the same thing as everyone else, the chances of them remembering you are not that great.
I feel too many people focus on trying to close the deal (whatever it may be in that situation, even if it’s just to try and impress the person and have him or her like and acknowledge you) the first time they meet someone, when they should be focused on building a relationship.
Buy them lunch, or a drink, and ask them about something they are passionate about that you are also interested in. If you know what they do and you admire them for it, then compliment it and let them know you’ve read it or seen it. Most successful people are very approachable and they are also appreciative when they know you are interested in what they do and have purchased their product. Wouldn’t you be if it were you on the other end?
Above all, be yourself and be genuine, as it’s not worth putting on an act; people can see through the bullshit. Honestly, if you can’t be yourself, who will you be? If someone doesn’t like you for you then maybe it’s not the right company, or you need to check yourself (but that’s a discussion for another article).
There are so many opportunities to start building connections and relationships with other people, whether it’s people you admire and look up to, clients, potential partners, people of influence, or anyone else you really want to connect with.
Over the years I have taken a lot of notes on what I have done to build relationships with people, especially in the fitness industry – but also outside of it. This can truly apply to anyone, and although the thoughts may be a little scattered, I promise you there is advice that will help you.
20 Tips to Really Connecting and Building Relationships
1. No matter what happens, it is most important to be real (genuine), be yourself, and always approach the situation from a perspective of adding value to the other person’s life, while not expecting anything else in return. If you follow just this first point you will already be on a good path to creating great relationships over time.
2. Send the person you would like to connect with an e-mail, thanking them for what they do and letting them know about a product or service of theirs you used, your opinion on it, and ask if there is any way you can help promote it.
3. You can never go wrong by gifting someone a book, whether you are meeting them for the first time (if you have a book and you gift it at a first time meeting, then I’m okay with that being your business card), or it’s someone you admire, a client, or a team member, and you thought they would like it and benefit from it.
**I would much rather have someone gift me a used book that cost $3 than give me a $100 gift card, as one is generic, while the other took some thought and will benefit me when I read it.
Since we’re talking about gifting books, gift yourself this, a great book on connecting and building relationships…
4. When you read articles and posts of people you admire and follow, leave a comment on their blog, or on Facebook. Be interested and interactive, as they will recognize that you are passionate about the subject as well as their work, and it easier to connect to them in person once you get an opportunity to meet them.
5. When you have an opportunity, donate time or money to the person’s worthwhile cause. If it is in your community, then you can even lead a charity campaign for the cause. We do this a lot with our “Saturday boot camps for a cause.” I would reach out to a local person of influence after finding out which cause they are associated with, and let him or her know that we will be raising funds for the cause, and that you would love it if they could come and participate as you know that they are a supporter of that cause.
6. Invite a client out to lunch, or for coffee or a drink, just to talk to them and get to know them better and see if there is anything you can do for them.
7. Always keep a notepad handy so you can note what people are interested in and passionate about. After you spend time with them, you can send them a card letting them know you appreciate their time and that you just wanted to thank them with a small gift (which would be something they like from the notes you took). More than anything this shows appreciation for the person’s time as well as the fact that you were present and listening.
8. Whenever I meet people for the first time, I will always send a thank you card thanking them for their time and letting them know it was a pleasure to get to know them.
9. After seminars, always stick around; people go to restaurants and bars and that is where the real connection begins, and where you have an opportunity to get to know people better. Buy a round, or maybe two, and you’ll put a smile on many people’s faces (or a headache if it goes all night…this too has benefits).
10. Create a get-together where you can invite people to a more relaxed setting: a BBQ, bowling, or a movie night with food at your place. This is something I would do for some of your best clients – get to know them better, and have them bring a friend along.
11. If the person has a product and you admire his or her work, ask if you could do an interview with him or her for your site, promoting the product to your clients, especially when you know it would benefit them. Always keep it real, though, and be a part of things you believe in.
12. Come prepared to events, masterminds, and seminars. Know who will be there and whom you may want to meet and connect with. Have you read their books or bought any of their programs? Have you commented on their blogs or their Facebook pages? Have you connected?! If not, then do it before you meet them. Show them you appreciate what they do.
13. When people do speak to you, always try to understand what they really mean. Also, always let the speaker be the star. This is important with anyone you communicate with, but even more so when you are dealing with your clients.
14. When you see that someone you look up to, or want to meet and connect with, has a problem that needs solving, take the time to find a solution or recommend what worked for you. Remember that even though you may not be as successful financially or career-wise (or in any other area, for the matter), you have advice in other areas that may help them out (that’s why they asked for it). Just the act of taking time to help will be appreciated and build a connection.
15. When you attend events, ALWAYS go and meet people you want to. Everyone started somewhere and was nervous when greeting mentors. Being audacious in networking has some similarities with dating (pitfalls and fears), but without it you will never be able to connect and create powerful relationships. It’s safe sticking to the people we know but building a power circle of trusted people means you have to be out there a little bit. Don’t forget to have a notepad with you and write out all the people you met at the end of the day, as you can later get their information (just do some research) and follow up with them to continue building the relationship.
16. Invite a mentor to your gym to do an in-staff training or seminar that will benefit them. Pay for their time and show you really appreciate what they do. Not only will you and your team or staff get a ton of great information, you will also be able to spend a lot of time building the relationship outside of just “business.”
17. Since most people have a phobia when it comes to speaking, and this doesn’t necessarily mean in front of hundreds of people, but even when approaching someone they look up to, it’s crucial that you work on getting better at it.
Here are some tips to improve speaking and approaching people you are afraid to:
- If you’re not ready to take the leap and become the master connector, then be around a friend or colleague that naturally engages with people and learn from them as well as have them introduce you to others. This is a lot easier and less stressful
- Learn to speak. Join Toastmasters Club or anywhere that will give you a chance to practice in a non-intimidating environment, maybe with an instructor that will guide and push you. Since this is one of the most crucial skills that will help you in many areas of life, I recommend you put it high on your to do list…and thank me later.
- Be part of something you connect to, maybe a hobby (cars, sports, etc.) as it is much easier to get to know people that way, and the possibilities of reaching out and making new contacts will grow. As you’re in that situation, work on growing and becoming a leader (practice at it, YES, practice at becoming a leader).
- Set a real goal of meeting X number of people per week. How about we start with just one? Doesn’t matter where or how. It could be at the gym or the bar; it could be a new team member. It will get easier and easier with practice and you will also get ore comfortable with the idea of rejection (rejection will happen, and it’s okay…well, somewhat). Remember the saying “Fail, fail again. Fail better.” I’m not sure who said it, but it was someone smart.And remember, you actually have to do it!
18. This is more specific, yet really important. Acknowledge your team, and let them know; show them you care for them as much as you care for yourself. The hardest part of business is managing people. If you want to create a business that works for you, grows, and continues to keep the quality, vision, and community, it starts with your team. This is where the core of the connection and relationships happen, regardless of how you decide to run your business.
Do you show genuine concern for the lives of your team outside of work? Have you made an effort to make them part of the vision, the leadership? I know much has been written about being a ruthless leader, but in this day and age, mean guys finish last. My philosophy is to inspire love and admiration, as well as help people see their full potential.
This goes to connecting right at the core, where you work: your business!
19. When you are at events, dinners, or seminars, have something to say, and say it with passion. When you speak, be sincere, and have something to offer. This is not difficult when there is something that you are passionate about, and you feel strongly about it. Be yourself and don’t try to agree with people because of who they are or because you look up to them. People respect valuable additions to a conversation, especially when you are sincere, transparent about it, and they can see that it what you truly believe in.
20. While you may think it’s important to meet as many people as possible when you attend events, I’d rather spend more time with less people and really get to know them and connect with them. And how can you rush through a conversation where you are building a connection and relationship and expect people to have respect for you and remember you?
Remember, you are only as good as what you give!
21. Yes, I lied, there are 21 tips; do something about it!
This one is important and takes me back to when I was growing up in the industry and there were people I looked up to that wouldn’t give me the time of day or made smart ass remarks if I made a comment in a conversation. That made me feel little and would take away my confidence for speaking. I vowed not to do that to anyone regardless of where they are in their career. So never treat those under you poorly, treat people up or down the ladder with respect.
There are many more tips on connecting and building relationships and I hope these gave you ideas, or, even more importantly, they made a point that you need to put yourself out there and start connecting with clients, mentors, employees, joint ventures, and people of influence. Always be real, transparent, and sincere. Speak with passion while working on providing value and giving. You will be amazed at the relationships you can build over time and how they will influence your business, and, even more importantly, your life.
You can download our lunch and learn networking sheet. Use this to write down who is in your network. Add their information, and reach out. Set up meetings, lunch, or coffee or a drink.
Give yourself a goal to reach out to at least one person a day for the next 28 days, whether it is sending a thank you card, inviting them to lunch, doing an interview for your blog, or just thanking them for doing what they do. See what happens after the 28 days, and let us know.
But there is one piece of knowledge that is crucial to making the above advice actually work:
Actually do this shit!