Nothing is more important to sales professionals than to have positive relationships with their customers. In selling, relationships are everything. Yet it seems that building relationships has become even more challenging today’s complicated world of technology and social media. In some ways these “tools” have become more of a hindrance when trying to build meaningful business relationships. The reality is that there are time honored rules about connecting with people…and they are as relevant today as ever. Allow me to share the 5 ways you can network better—so you can develop those essential relationships.

  1. Approach network building as relationship building. Sometimes it seems the emphasis is on the numbers. I have 1,680 contacts on LinkedIn but that is not as valuable or helpful as turning a few contacts into relationships.
  2. Learn the relationship building process…and use it. In reality, all valuable business relationships are built the same way—using a simple 3 step process. It is based on:
    • What you think (your mindset)
    • What you ask (the kind of information you gather)
    • What you do (the actions you take)
  3. Be thoughtful. Demonstrating that you think about the other person as an individual pays great dividends. One of the more effective ways is to do this is by doing UTAs (Unexpected Thoughtful Acts):
    • An UTA is doing something unexpected that is usually free (or of negligible cost) that expresses the thoughtfulness of the person. It is doing something above and beyond the unexpected.
    • It is not the cost but the thoughtfulness that gets noticed.
  4. Be proactive. Most relevant and useful business relationship networks need to be constructed—they just don’t occur by happenstance. Thus you need to decide who to develop relationships with. Go after those relationships that you want to develop and work diligently to maintain them with persistent relevant contact.
  5. Leverage your relationships.Relationship building takes time and effort but there are ways that you can leverage the good ones that you already have…by what we call Pyramid Hopping.
    • When you have a great relationship with a customer, we refer to that as reaching the top of the Relationship Pyramid. When someone at the top of your pyramid introduces you to someone else, you bypass those introductory steps necessary to relationship building.
    •  You are using the power of using someone else’s connections.

The ability to network is essential to business success.  As John D. Rockefeller said, “A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship.” Developing meaningful relationships requires time and effort. Once you have decided that developing relationships are essential to your success, I hope these guidelines will help propel your engagement with your customers. Your success in doing so will soon be demonstrated by see the difference you’ll see in your sales results.