Selling is about building authentic relationships and helping people address problems that need solutions. Those authentic relationships stem from mindful networking — another misunderstood concept – that leads many to envision awkward encounters or collecting stacks of business cards just for the sake of it.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. I’ve found a way to create value by cultivating a robust and loyal network.
Here are six strategies even the most timid among us can leverage to develop a productive network:
1. Hone your elevator pitch
Help people understand what you do. Don’t make them work so hard!
If you can tell someone what problems you solve, who you work with, and how you are different, you’ve already outperformed most people who deliver the typical elevator pitch. Instead of telling a prospect your job title, tell them about a problem you recently solved for an organization; tell them about your ideal client, and do these with passion and enthusiasm.
2. It’s more about how you make them feel
Small gestures make a huge impression: taking time to prepare for a meeting, creating an agenda, asking your contact what they’d like to get out of the discussion, sharing thoughtful ideas relative to their situation, and following up in a timely manner with promised items.
There’s no better feeling for me than a prospect telling me they feel understood. If prospects feel better as a result of spending time with you, then you’ve made an impact that will be long-lasting.
3. Shift your mindset from “getting something” to “giving something”
Developing authentic relationships requires being “other” centered: It’s not about you; it’s about the other person’s needs. Sometimes the best thing you can do is say you aren’t the right person or firm to help, but you know someone else who can better support them.
Creating generous, productive relationships involves understanding someone else’s needs. If they know you get them, or are clear on their objectives, trust often follows.
With trust, you can make a request or grant one. The first step in truly great relationship building is being other-centered and earning trust.
4. Find new ways to connect
Sharing articles, blog posts, interesting podcasts, or YouTube videos are just some of the ways to stay connected as you are also sharing a piece of yourself. Friends, prospects, or clients may associate that content with you and, as a result, see you as a source of learning or as a thought leader.
But think beyond yourself, too. Have tickets to an interesting speaker series or exciting industry event? Offer them to a prospect and invite them to take a spouse or colleague.
Introductions can be a way for you to create a forever grateful connection. Playing matchmaker can create a mutually beneficial opportunity.
5. Be responsive
A quick response can be what sets you apart from your competitors. I often say responsiveness is a cornerstone of my brand. People are so overwhelmed with information and correspondence that they no longer follow up on what they say they’re going to do when they say they’re going to do it.
When you deliver on your commitments — when you follow up with definitive next steps in the promised timeframe — you will be remembered.
6. Advocate for yourself
Countless people will gladly eat up your time in their own self-interest so make sure there’s something in it for you, too. Make a request, think of ways that the individual can help you. Create a process to qualify relationships that are more likely to be productive or inspiring — and maybe even result in referrals, introductions, or new business.
Time is a precious resource, so invest your time cultivating relationships that will have the greatest impact — whether those relationships are personal or professional.
Amy Dordek is the Managing Director at GrowthPlay.